When I was a little girl, my friends and I would play “school”. One of us would be the teacher and the others would play the students. We would switch roles so everyone got a chance to be the teacher. A fun game: everyone playing all the parts, and no one feeling less than or better than. Ah, the Lords’ Club.
We were never hindered by the low or high self-esteem that has since infiltrated into every aspect of our lives. Children were to learn from teachers; it was a good thing, and when we did well we went out of our way to acknowledge the teachers who helped us. That acknowledgement did not in any way diminish our accomplishment. We were taught, we learned, and we imbibed. We made the learning ours by taking it in and discovering our own ways of embodying and expressing it.
There were always a few students who were brought up to accomplish things only on their own. They believed that if they got help, they could not have any ownership over what they achieved. These few, though they may have had great teachers, “knew” that if they took in what a teacher taught and actually imbibed the knowledge, they could not take credit for whatever they did. Though surrounded by teachers, they were self-taught and even oppositional, so that they could not be accused of having taken any advice from anyone else. They succeeded solely on their own. Ultimately, they “won” by failing to learn.
Ironically, they learned this very refusal to take instruction from the most important teachers in their lives: their first caregivers, usually their parents. There is no escaping teachers.
Those of us who were willing to accept instruction found ourselves able to handle ever greater and deeper knowledge and a wider range of situations. We could actually apply the knowledge and ability we had gleaned from our teachers, and transfer our skills into all areas of our lives. And lo and behold, we could acknowledge the skills we had, because we were not running around trying to cover up where we got them.
There was no need for me and my fellow learners to hide our teachers. For thousands of years, teachers had been cherished and valuable, and for us they still were. We knew that without them we would be lost. We would be struggling with tasks we were so proud to be able to complete on our own—never realizing that those accomplishments were really elementary, and nothing to brag about.
A few years ago, I attended a graduation ceremony at a private high school. While students occupied the stage and gave self-congratulatory speeches, teachers went unacknowledged; they were not part of the ceremony—so completely disregarded that I could not even tell who they were. The ceremony catered entirely to the inflated self-esteem of the graduands.
With this sort of devaluing of teachers comes the destruction of future experts. The self-esteem of a child is so fragile because it has no true substance; it is just made up of a cluster of ideas. Adults tiptoe around these fragile egos, believing that is love, when if they truly loved their children they would equip them with skills for their lives. Instead, too many parents have backed down, leaving their children to education via video games, the entertainment industry and each other. Now, teachers have been encouraged to back down as well—and call it things like child-centered learning.
For my friends and me, child-centered learning would not have made sense. It would never have given us a chance in life. I at least knew that I knew little or nothing about life. I knew I was a child, and it was okay. Why would I want to collaborate with others in my same boat?
Thank God for my teachers. Thank God for every time they said, “No”. Thank God for when they said, “Do it again”. We were not allowed to become so ridiculously deluded, because no one tiptoed around our self-esteem.
My teachers all had teachers. They all came from lineages of one kind or another. At the supreme level, my Baba, Swami Muktananda, had Nityananda. Each was able to teach because he had been willing to seek out and accept instruction. We must be willing to do the same.
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