Through a Jungian Lens

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A Teacher At Heart

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One of the stops I made as I toured through Cambodia was at these three floating schools; a kindergarten, an elementary and a secondary school.  These schools were found just a few hundred metres from the northern end of Tonle Sap Lake, an area that floods during the rainy season.  I got there before classes began in the early morning in order to catch the light and avoid the heat of the day.  I checked in with the kindergarten classes and got a few interesting photos which I then showed the students which only made them more willing to be photographed.  This was followed by a visit to a classroom of older students in the elementary school.  In the late afternoon while returning from a visit to a floating village on the lake, I stopped off at the high school to catch some boys playing soccer (football) and talk to some other high school students before they headed home for the day.  There is little doubt that I find a lot of pleasure in meeting students and talking with them, I seem to be at home when with young people, listening to them and having them listen, with interest and respect to what I have to say to them.

Young people are willing to trust a guide, a teacher as they prepare themselves for a life of adulthood.  The teacher-student relationship is precious for both the teacher and the student.  But, one can’t take the relationship for granted.  The moment the teacher becomes puffed up with his or her importance, students retreat from listening and respecting the teacher.  There is a shift from student to resistance fighter.  The key relationship activity of authentic presence that recognizes the other (both teacher and student) has been sabotaged and the resultant loss leads to grieving on the students’ part.  And, also to a delayed sense of loss and grieving on the teacher’s part.

A lifetime in the classroom has taught me a lot about relationships with young people – but not so much with peers.  I lack confidence and have built a fairly impenetrable fortress around my psyche with “friendly” personae to suit the adult audience.  I am on edge trying hard to please, to keep the focus on the other rather than have anyone see my “self” in any depth.  I hide behind a mirror while giving the egos of those I meet positive strokes.  People in general don’t know me though they think I am a quiet and kind man who smiles easily and listens without trying to monopolize the conversations.  I was a good school principal in terms of ethical behaviour and in caring for the students and being there for them.  I wasn’t all that good with the teachers though because as more than one teacher and support staff mentioned over the years, I wasn’t tough enough.  I didn’t want to be tougher, couldn’t be tougher – I didn’t want to open the pandora’s box that contained my shadow as I feared I would become too tough and do more hurt than healing.  Now, six years later, I am again teaching and enjoying it.

I still haven’t given up on adults hoping that somewhere along the way, some adult will want to listen to me, to engage with me authentically sharing ideas, dreams and visions.


Written by Robert G. Longpré

May 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Why did you have to write this one?? It cuts way too close to the bone. Beinga teacher can give us good strong relationships with students and protect us at the same time from having to deal with peers.

    Lotus Eater

    May 27, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    • It does cut close to the bone. I am trying out a harder dialogue with my self and seeing what comes forward. Being a teacher is rewarding for me, but it is also something I hide behind in terms of being more authentic.


      June 3, 2011 at 6:41 pm

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