‘You are the hope of the nation!’ (Jasmin, a teacher, the Philippines)
It’s intriguing, the impact that teachers can have in our lives. How they shape our experiences, perspectives and 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 human rights, to defend the oppressed from powerful oppressors.
I had other teachers who opened-up the world to us. One was French, and 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 visit different countries.
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, play with words and reach for excellence. I had another English teacher who toyed with us and manipulated the class for his own entertainment. He taught me to avoid a misuse of position.
In all these cases, I was influenced as much by the person as by the subject. It was the person who shaped my world, fanned my passions into flame or served as a warning of what to avoid. I learned important lessons about power and humility, the power to liberate and the potential to abuse. These evolved into central themes in my Christian ethics, stance and leadership.
Which teachers have influenced you most? What impact have they had in your life?
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