During my kids’ yoga class last week, I mentioned a pose I learned from one of my teachers. One of the children commented, “You have a teacher? I thought once you are a teacher you just teach yourself.” I responded, “No, that’s not the way it works.” Ever since then I’ve been thinking about how it works, and, truthfully, I’ve been thinking about it most of my life. Even though I avoided the topic until I had my own child, teaching occupies a lot of space on my mental hard drive. I’ve been unusually fortunate to have experienced quite a collection of teachers who have guided me through life.
My parents, my first teachers, provided fertile ground (literally and figuratively) upon which to grow. They gave me a childhood closely connected to the earth, from which to learn my first lessons. As I grew up and moved away from rural Nebraska, other teachers surfaced, both in organized and informal ways. A wise and intuitive teacher, who insists to this day that her life work is to “disturb sleep,” showed me in early adulthood how to pay close attention to the messages of my heart. A university professor, whom I later came to view as the Medicine Man, taught me, through living examples, a way to establish and maintain a sense of community in every part of my life. My yoga teachers, to this day, offer life teachings that guide every moment of my practice, both on and off my mat.
I am graced by the opportunity to spend most of my days surrounded by teachers who, year after year, give the best of themselves to the children at our school. Their dedication and selflessness teach me that when we offer our best to students, they, in turn, respond in ways that frequently go beyond expectations. When taught by teachers who approach the learning process with genuineness, children offer their lessons back to us as well. Recently a four-year-old girl reported to her teacher, “I saw a teacher running in the hall and I reminded her, ‘Walking feet!’ ” This child’s comment was a direct reminder that children are paying attention, that safety matters, and being empowered to use one’s voice can happen, even when you are four.
As a teacher, I’m grateful for the daily lessons I receive from the teachers I work with and the teachers with whom I study. From each of them, as well as the children who deliver their lessons in unexpected ways, I know there is always more to learn. Even though I am a teacher, I will always need those who surround me to deliver life’s important wisdom.