There was this teacher my daughter believed had been sent to make her primary school life miserable. “She doesn’t like me. She’s always picking on me,” she complained. She had a solution too. “Please ask the school if I can be moved to another class.” I considered it for a bit. Then I realised that if we changed this class, there was still high school and university. What would happen if she met similar teachers? And probably a difficult boss. Then what? While this is in no way to dismiss tyrant teachers who bully your child and need to be investigated and prosecuted, it was an important moment for teaching my child perseverance.
Interestingly, after she had completed her Standard Eight exams, she used her pocket money to buy her teachers thank you cards. Her “difficult” teacher got the largest and most colourful of all the cards. “I thought she didn’t like you?” I asked. She smiled sheepishly and said, “She wasn’t that bad!” Could have fooled me! I asked to read the card. In it was written something to the effect, “Thank you for pushing me to work hard and pass my exams!” I got it. You see, sometimes our hardest teachers are actually our best teachers. They demand more of us than we do of ourselves, they refuse to accept our excuses of mediocrity and finally, like a good coach, they keep raising the bar. I have had some wonderful, motivating teachers but it is usually the toughest ones that gained my respect.
LIFE IS LIKE THAT
Life is like that. We are surrounded by teachers, although most of them are not teachers in the formal sense. They are the people we encounter on our journey who push, criticise and even attempt to break us. They could be a difficult neighbour, an abusive partner, a disloyal friend. They are the people we love to hate and we could spend hours telling others how they did us wrong. You see, they hurt us, and we feel justified in hating them and asking others to do the same. However, what if they are not enemies but teachers of a different kind? You see that difficult neighbour could be calling you out on your careless housekeeping. That abusive partner is helping you learn about the patterns of abuse so you can avoid them in future. If you ask yourself the tough questions, you may realise that you tolerated the abuse and because of that, it continued. That disloyal friend taught you to be more discerning over who you allow into your life. Question is, did you learn the lesson? Or are you stuck in a place of victim-hood. A place where you never examine your part in what just happened.
The thing about life’s tests is that we don’t learn the lesson and fail the test, we keep repeating it. That’s why abused people continue to attract abusers. That’s why you will fall for another disloyal friend and you will likely have issues with your neighbours every time you move. You missed the point. They were teachers, not the good and kind variety, but teachers nonetheless. Cherie Carter-Scott writes in her book, If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules “You will continually attract the same lesson into your life. You will also draw teachers to teach you that lesson until you get it right. The only way you can free yourself difficult patterns is by shifting your perspective so you can recognise the patterns and learn the lessons they offer.” She offers six basic steps to learning and growing from the difficult situations and people we encounter; become aware of the pattern or issues; acknowledge that you need to release the pattern; actively choose to release the pattern; create a realistic strategic plan to do so; commit to taking daily and accountable action and celebrating when you succeed. Some of these are hard that we may need additional tuition in form of support groups, therapists or loving friends to walk the journey with us. Life is full of teachers. Some of whom, we wished we had never met. Yet they all taught us something. We need to find them and say, “Thank you.”