Do you remember that TV campaign a few years ago called ‘everyone remembers a good teacher’? I was thinking about this a few days ago when someone asked where I got my love of writing from. Well, I think that’s what they were asking. The actual question was “who the hell taught you to write?” But, I read between the lines, as it were…
Anyway, the answer to that question is Brian Cleary, an English teacher at Batley Grammar School in the 1970’s. He was also a very positive influence on my love of reading, particularly the Classics (those books without pictures) and amateur dramatics, which was ideal preparation for the next 30 years of professional dramatics.
While this may be of little comfort to the kids as they return to school next week, having a good teacher is one of the best things you can have in life. I don’t subscribe to the saying ‘those who can, do; those who can’t teach’, as it denigrates the life-long impact of great teaching. Actually, I prefer Woody Allen’s line that “those who can’t do, teach; those who can’t teach, teach P.E.”!
Of course, in the same way that everyone does, indeed, remember good teachers, everyone also remembers a good manager. In my own career I look back with immense fondness and gratitude to the managers and leaders who were willing to invest in my education, enabling me to do the thing I wanted to do most of all, which was to learn, perform well and continually develop, as a leader and as a person.
But no matter how brilliant the teacher or leader, we will only learn if we want to. And it seems that people broadly fall into two camps, the ones who want to learn and the ones who don’t. This is why many people stay virtually the same throughout most of their lives, the same views, the same values and beliefs, the same outlook.
In some professions, it seems almost a sign of weakness or deficiency to change your point of view as a result of growth. Take politics, for example. How many times have politicians been derided because they may have a different perspective from a year or even ten years ago? But what is wrong with acknowledging that you’ve changed your mind, learned something or even experienced a paradigm shift because of an experience or even just a conversation?
In other work areas, learning and growth is absolutely critical. In health and medicine there are major developments virtually every day and boy, don’t we appreciate it?
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher (weren’t they all?) said “no man ever steps into the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. And for those who love to learn, every day is a new adventure. It brings a fresh perspective, new thoughts and ways of reasoning and another opportunity to be the best version of you.
It’s a wonderful trip, this journey of discovery and being in a profession that helps others on this voyage is truly an amazing privilege. There’s a whole world of learning out there so why not return to school with the kids? Not literally, of course. I mean, have you tried lately to sit on those chairs they provide for the six-years olds? And when it comes to getting up again…
That good teacher you’ll always remember may be long gone, but in a time where learning is always right at our fingertips the opportunity for self-growth has never been higher.
And you don’t even need a uniform…unless you really, really want one…!