Teachers are getting a bad rap these days. They’re being blamed for all sorts of things, from falling test scores to failing schools to budget deficits. But I’ve always kind of liked teachers. My father was a teacher, both Junior and Senior High, as was my brother for awhile. I know through them just how difficult and rewarding it can be. Which is why I get a little miffed when I hear politicians and pundits scapegoating teachers. I mean, really, I’d love to see Rush Limbaugh spend one day substitute teaching a class full kids in, say, your average Chicago Public School. Of course I’m talking mainly about public school teachers here. There are all sorts of teachers out there, in our congregations, our local community colleges, trade schools, state universities and private colleges. And all of them deserve a certain amount of our gratitude and respect. But there are other teachers, too. The ones we meet everyday, on the street, at our jobs (if we’re lucky enough to have a job), even on the internet—people who sometimes challenge us to move beyond our knee jerk reactions and initial responses in order to learn something new. God knows I’ve met plenty of such teachers in my life, and from time to time (but not as often as I’d like) I’ve actually learned something from them. This small group ministry session based on resources from SpiritualityandPractice.com is all about those kind of teachers, the ones who make us sigh and say to ourselves, “Here comes another one.”
Everyone we meet in life is on a mission to teach us something new. Surprise!
— Joan Chittister in Gospel Days
A Teaching Story from Thank You for Being Such A Pain: Spiritual Guidance for Dealing with Difficult People by Mark I. Rosen. Thank You for Being Such A Pain is a profoundly ethical work of great practicality. Mark I. Rosen presents specific strategies for healing difficult relationships. Here is a story from the book about teachers.
There is a story about the mystical teacher Gurdjieff and one of his disciples. The disciple, who lived in the ashram, was strongly disliked by the other disciples for a variety of reasons. When he left, Gurdjieff actually tracked him down and paid him to return, telling the rest of the disciples that the ostracized man was one of their most important teachers.
The next time a difficult person comes into your life, it might be helpful to tell yourself something along the lines of “(Sigh) Here comes another one. God, I ask you to guide me. You have sent this person to me for a reason. Help me to know what it is, and help me to cope successfully.”
Questions: Share a story about something you have learned from a difficult person or an enemy.
Check-out/Likes and Wishes
We are all medicine for one another. The Sauk say, “Teachers not only teach, they also learn.”
— Evan T. Pritchard in No Word for Time
To Practice This Thought: When you have to work with difficult people, vow to learn what they have to teach you.
For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Teachers.
For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.