A Bad Teacher is a Great Learning Opportunity

Having spent so many years in the education system, it was bound to happen eventually.

"Memorize this. Stop thinking outside the box. It's my way or the highway."

I've been blessed to have had a plethora of incredible teachers over my lifetime. So, when a bad teacher entered my life, she stuck out like a sore thumb.

Note that when I say "bad", I don't mean it in the colloquial sense. Most kids use the word to refer to teachers who assign a lot of homework or hold them to a higher standard, and that's NOT what I'm referring to.

In my mind, a bad teacher is a person who takes away more from a student's life than she adds.

The opportunity cost of sitting in a classroom for an hour and a half each day is startling — especially in the Information Age when there are countless other methods (many even more efficient and effective) for learning the material on one's own.

If a teacher isn't providing any value beyond what I could get from Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Quora, YouTube, etc., then there's a good chance it's not worth my time or effort to sit in her classroom. Further, if that teacher actively discourages critical thinking, it actually becomes detrimental to sit in her classroom for an hour and a half each day.

With that being said, however, there is one lesson I keep learning from this particular teacher day in and day out. It's a lesson I wouldn't be able to find on any website or in any book.

Believe it or not, it's a lesson in leadership.

The primary benefit of a bad teacher - like a bad boss - is learning how NOT to lead, how NOT to treat others, and how NOT to run an organization.

A bad teacher frivolously wastes her students' time on menial tasks and rote memorization. A good leader helps her people understand the importance of what they're working on and encourages them to think beyond the status quo.

A bad teacher acts defensive and insists that she is in the right even when it is obvious that is not the case. A good leader surrounds herself with people smarter than her, and looks forward to being wrong because it helps move the organization forward.

I wrote earlier this year about the mindset with which I approach my schooling, and I made this point:

"We don't often get to choose the obstacles that we face in life. But, we always get to choose how we face them."

This teacher is a perfect opportunity to apply that sentiment.

I could continue to leave her classroom each day fuming over how she had treated her students, how she wasted their time and insulted them. Or, I could take advantage of the opportunity to learn from her as an example of how NOT to treat people.

So often in life we come across experiences that on the surface feel pernicious and wasteful. However, when we put forth the effort to dig deep and come away with something positive, we can make such experiences infinitely more meaningful.

As the saying goes, everything in life can be your teacher if you are only willing to learn.



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