Creating The Webbd Wheel: Teachers
Life is an opportunity to learn.
As a librarian, a person who went through the public education system, and a teacher, I could say much about the state of public education, literacy in America, critical thinking, censorship, and the slow erosion of true scholarship and academic excellence under the current onslaught of ideology.
But I won’t. I don’t have the heart for it and that’s not what this newsletter is for.
As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk with the laptop in my lap, fending off my cat, Oz, who thinks he should be in my lap. Under a slab of glass on my desk is my Imbolc Tarot spread, including the first card of the Major Arcana, which is The Fool. In my particular deck it’s called The Wanderer.
I love this card. It’s the beginning, the place we all start, complete in ourselves, with everything we need, fresh, innocent, the whole world before us. The Wanderer is shown from the back, one foot raised to take a step and begin learning.
Life is a classroom. Life is learning. Everything we do, everything we experience, is an open doorway to learning something new. How and why did we make learning small enough to wedge behind a desk, in a classroom, in a building? Who is the genius who came up with assigning letters to indicate how well we bear our childhood and young adulthood incarceration and brainwashing within the matrix of public education?
These are rhetorical questions.
If life is learning, it’s also teaching. Teachers are everywhere. Our first teachers are our families. Then our friends. Then the life in our environment: trees, plants, animals. Then our communities. Everyone we interact with in a day is a potential teacher. Every event contains something to learn.
But because we are indoctrinated by the idea of a credentialed human being teaching in a room or from a screen, we don’t recognize the teachers surrounding us day in, day out. We don’t recognize our experience as learning. We especially don’t recognize our discomfort and distress as learning. We think of learning as a passive experience in an artificial setting, tightly controlled and structured. We think of learning as a safe activity (ha!), bound by rules. We think of it as linear: one begins at point A at a certain age and level. At some point, years in the future from point A, the path diverges at the end of public education. Either one is “finished” at that point (if they make it to that point at all), and therefore at least moderately “successful,” or one pursues (if they have the resource) “higher education.” After which, happily ever after with a great job, a good income, and never mind about those pesky student loans …
But life isn’t like that at all. How many of us know exactly what we want to do with our lives when we’re “grown up?” How many kinds of work do we learn and do in our lives? How many of us choose to begin whole new courses of study during our lives?
And then there are those who thirst for learning but have neither the access nor resource to do it. What a shameful waste of lives and minds.
In post #60 of The Hanged Man, Jenny apprentices with Minerva to learn her craft, from working with fiber to creating a finished product. But Minerva does not begin with the mechanics of doing the work. She begins with Jenny herself, teaching her how to recognize her own shape and skill, her strengths and weaknesses, her motivations and fears. Jenny’s talent is innate; what she needs is to become a strong vessel for her gift. She needs to move out of potential and into mastery, just as The Wanderer does. It’s a journey she will take for the rest of her life.
It's also a journey she has chosen. She is ready for the teacher, in this case, Minerva. Minerva, too, is ready to learn from Jenny. It’s collaborative, this teaching and learning. It’s reciprocal. Both teacher and student grow bigger. Their roles are fluid rather than static.
Life is an opportunity to learn.
This week,posed a fascinating question in her A-Mail newsletter: “What tweak would make your life better?”
The question collided with a very difficult day I had Friday at work, so difficult I woke up to the fact that for some time I’ve been increasingly stressed and unhappy with my job, a job I love. I forgot for a time I can love my job and still find parts of it difficult and stressful. I forgot to pay attention, to ask myself what would help. I forgot to notice the not-so-useful coping mechanisms I’m increasingly leaning on during my work hours to deal with stress I was hardly conscious of.
Considering what small choices and changes might help cast a clarifying light on my work. Talking it over with a colleague further illuminated the situation. It turns out I’m not the only one feeling stressed and frustrated. It turns out there are some small tweaks we can make that will make a big difference.
That bad Friday at work (in a rehab pool facility) was a great class. Everyone who drove me nuts, made demands (“the ladies’ locker room is a mess!”), accused me of making mistakes; the overloud music (if I have to listen to oldies at a volume for hard of hearing people for one more minute I’m going to drown somebody); the people who stayed and stayed and talked and talked; the people who didn’t show or showed at the wrong time or cancelled in a huff because we couldn’t accommodate their new last-minute requests; patients; patrons; and colleagues, were teachers. My exhaustion, frustration, tears, and overstimulation at the end of the day were teachers.
I didn’t recognize any of that Friday. I just felt bad about myself. But then I read Anna’s question and I saw. I remembered. I started thinking more clearly. Tomorrow, when I return to work, I’ll make some different choices. As a team, we’ll tweak some things.
It’s all just learning. We’re all teachers and we’re all students.
Life is an opportunity to learn.
Turning Over Stones
What was your favorite learning experience?
How well do you fit into our current framework for formal learning?
Who or what has been a remarkable teacher for you?
What would you like to learn?
Leave a comment below!
Well said. Life is certainly an opportunity to learn if we can slow down and see the lessons in front of us. I have to remind myself to do that when I get overwhelmed.
My most remarkable teacher was probably a horse I had when I was younger called Lifeguard. He was kind, sensitive, and smart, but he never gave me anything I didn't earn, and I had to learn to control my emotions and be patient to ride him properly. It was like meditation. My time with him was a gift :-)
Part of what I loved about your writing is your obvious affinity with horses. My mother raised quarter horses while I was growing up, and we did horse rescue together. I don't have horses now, but I love them and they and other animals were the best part of my childhood. Lifeguard. This made me smile because I happen to be a lifeguard at a hospital rehab center!
The world can teach us so much, especially the animals who walk beside us in life. I'm so glad you and Lifeguard found one another. Do you ever wonder what, if anything, he learned from you? One of my most remarkable teachers was a crippled orange cat. A rescue, of course. Losing him was a kind of grief I had never experienced before. I still rarely speak of him to anyone. No one but an animal lover could possibly understand.