For every role that is “performed” in one’s life, the antithesis of that role also is performed. As I examine my many roles that I play in life, I realize that the majority of my time spent on this planet has been filled with learning. We all are eternal students, I guess you could say; this would at least be true in an ideal world. And for every individual whom consumes his or herself with being a student, that person also is a teacher. Too often the definition of teaching gets associated with a labeled person- a person with chalk-stained hands and a bright red apple upon a desk. I believe that teaching goes far beyond any one person who can stand in front of a classroom and program minds with information that will help pass standardized tests, information that will be vastly useless in the “real world”.
More useful in our day-to-day reality are the lessons we take from regular people in our lives. Our parents are our first teachers and the ones that we probably obtain the most information from. Yet most of them do not have a degree in education. And those same parents will learn more from their children than they could have ever been taught in a classroom. The point here is that from the day we are born, we are students and teachers all at the same time. And these are the roles that I feel are most important to discuss as far as their application to my life.
It is difficult to pinpoint the social influences that molded my role. Rather than being shaped from a handful of individuals, I think it was affected more by a collaboration of everyone I have encountered throughout my life. Just as everyone, in their own little way, make an impression on one’s life, so do they impact the role that we will continue to play throughout our lives. Obviously, though, some people are more important in this formation process. These people, of course, are our parents, schoolteachers, close friends, confidants, siblings, and anyone else whom we are relatively close to throughout our lives.
Much like everything else in life, you may be good or bad at any certain role that you play. As far as teaching goes, some are good and helpful whereas some are destructive. Teaching does not always have to be a positive effort. A younger sibling may pick up bad habits from his or her older brother or sister, etc. It is likely that a strength or weakness in our teaching skills relates to what we have seen in our environment, especially from parents or primary role models. In this respect I would say that this role is somewhat inherited; however, not biological or genetic, except in rare cases. These cases may include (but are not limited to), being born with some sort of defect that changes one’s outlook, thus jading their personality and making them a cynical teacher who cannot see a bright side to the world, or perhaps the genetic makeup of someone makes them cast out from the rest of society, making them too bitter to teach a lesson that doesn’t have a negative overtone. And of course there are positive ways that one could see teaching as genetic. If a child, for instance, has exceptional parents that both have an incredible strength in teaching others, then that child will more than likely be able to teach valuable and positive lessons throughout its life.
This role is mostly learned, however, and influenced by various forces around us- not only other humans. I feel that my own role as a teacher a mentor was shaped by the way I look at life. Throughout my days, I have attained an optimistic, benevolent attitude with an underlying intrigue and fascination about life and all that it holds. Since I can remember, I have quested for knowledge and wanted to share my discoveries with others. My discoveries were hardly something that was taught in a book.
It is an amazing thing to see lessons learned in your own life being reiterated and transformed into another lesson for another individual. This is teaching at its best form. I see this often, especially with people that are easily influenced. It is quite obvious that people who spend a lot of time together grow to act alike and sometimes even look alike. The reason for this being that both are exuding and teaching a portion of what is essential to their character, and both are picking up on what the other is teaching and going in a continuous circular motion of teaching and learning, yielding many similarities. I have noticed this with many friends of mine and also with the children I have spent time with thus far in life. Children see most adult figures as role models and try to pick up on parts of who they are. This is why the “shadow game” is very common among the younger age group. This is why I have always attempted to put my best foot forward, so to speak, and be a positive role model. It is also why I try to keep a passion for learning because I never know when someone may intake that part of who I am.
Personally, I feel that I have learned most of what I feel that I can learn and/or teach from my mother and my grandparents. My mom is what I like to call a constant seeker of information. She can never be content without knowing all that is possible to know at a certain time, and she does an excellent job at relaying this information to others. My grandparents, on the other hand, are the most fantastic teachers the world has ever seen in my eyes. They fit in well with the concept of the stereotypical grandparents who spoil their grandkids rotten and teach them valuable lessons on the way. You know, the sort of stories that start of with “Back when I was your age” and always have a moral.
As I matured, I began to learn more from my friends than I cared to learn from my family members. I think that is an inevitable phase of life. I was very lucky in my choice of friends, however, and had friends who made me learn terrific things. My two closest friends are the smartest guy anyone could ever imagine and the most compassionate girl. They taught me much needed lessons in expanding my mind and my heart. I would not trade those lessons for the most valuable Ph.D. on the planet.
I do not aim for this to seem as if I am attempting to say that I completely believe that we do not learn anything from our actual teachers. This is not true. I do believe, however, that what we learn from the teachers is not so much in their lesson plans, but more in what they say or how they act. I have learned things from my teachers in my elementary and high school career that have changed my life.
I moved in first grade to a new school and was very apprehensive because I was naturally shy. This began an omnipotent inadequacy complex that lasted for quite a while. In second grade, though, I had a teacher named Mrs. Bishop, an overly friendly elderly lady who treated everyone the same; it didn’t matter what your last name was or how long she had known you. Mrs. Bishop made me feel as if I belonged, and I started to feel more comfortable with my new environment. This did not cure me of not feeling up to the standard of a generalized mediocrity that all of my peers shared, though.
My life was drastically changed in sixth grade by a teacher named Mr. Storer. I guess you could say that Mr. Storer made me his “teacher’s pet”. At this point in my life, I was not used to being favored by anyone, especially a teacher. I started to come out of my shell because of this. It was almost like magic. My classmates started liking me without a lot of effort on my part.
This process of “de-shelling” continued through middle and high school. Each year I would get a bit more extraverted, join a few more activities, go to a few more social gatherings, and gain a lot more friends. All of my high school teachers saw how hard I worked at my studies and at my popularity. They respected that I could do both with ease. Each of those high school teachers taught me a special little lesson whether it be the virtue of being more open-minded or how to get up on a stage and make myself completely vulnerable in front of a large group of people. I did not learn these things from books.
As we make the circular journey of life and learn some of its lessons and never all of them, we see people who have very clearly defined roles. Maybe this is just because that person chose to exemplify a certain role by making it a career, or maybe it’s because that person has become obsessed with one of their roles in life. They may forsake things in their own life in order to carry out this role. This is well illustrated in a quote by an opera singer named Mary Garden, who was never married or had friends of her own because she worked so hard to create the facade of whatever character she was playing at the time. She stated, “The others acted’ a role; I was the role. She who was Mary Garden died so that it might live. That was my genius … and my sacrifice. It drained off so much of me that by comparison my private life was empty. I could not give myself completely twice.”
There are many roles to play in this drama that is life. It’s an impressive feat to be able to juggle all of these roles. To me, the most important lesson is to keep one role ongoing even though you may have to do the opposite side of it. What I mean by this is never stop being certain because of a question and never stop doctoring if you have to be a patient and never stop teaching while you feel that you must learn.