It’s curious, the unexpected impact teachers can have in our lives. How they shape our experiences, our perspectives, our choices. I had one teacher who was a sadistic bully. He used his power punitively to evoke terror. As children, we felt fearful and powerless before him. It galvanised within me a later commitment to civil rights, to defend the oppressed from powerful oppressors.
I had other teachers who opened up the world to us. One was French, attractive with a sweet accent. She believed in me and fuelled my interest in languages. Another was English but taught us German. He showed us photographs from his visits and evoked a sense of adventure, an exciting world beyond our horizons of experience. He inspired me to explore abroad.
I had another teacher who protected me. I switched classes without permission and, when an angry tutor came to check where I was, this teacher covered for me. It was a moment of unexpected and undeserved grace. He put himself at risk in order to protect me from punishment. It taught me to step out for others, to put myself on the line to protect those who are vulnerable.
One teacher had a passion for language. He could create magic with words, enabled us to capture and express ideas with creativity and precision. He enabled and inspired me to write, to play with words, to reach for excellence. I had another English teacher who toyed with us, manipulated the class for his own entertainment. He taught me to avoid misuse of position.
In all these cases, I was influenced as much by the person as the subject. It was the people who shaped my world, fanned my passions into flame or served of warnings of what to avoid. In particular, I learned important lessons about power and humility, the power to liberate and the potential to abuse. Central issues in Christian faith and important lessons for leadership.