Tag Archives: druid teacher

Finding a teacher

There’s an oft repeated saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Most of us aren’t patient enough to just sit round waiting, and often a part of that readiness is manifested by going out there and seeing who might be able to help.

When we start out learning Druidry, the idea of a teacher-parent-guru who has all the wisdom and who can make encouraging noises about how well you’re doing, is a really alluring idea. Been there, have several badly tattered t-shirts to testify to the experience. So often what we want from a teacher – a simple way forward, affirmation, reassurance – is not what we get. Druidry is not straight forward and much of what makes us Druids is not the doing of specific things, or the learning of certain facts, but a developing of understanding. That takes time, and no one can do it for us.

Not all people who offer to teach Druidry are wise, kindly, insightful people who will help you on the journey. I’ve been stung, twice now, by ‘teachers’ who turned out to be unfair, demanding, fond of humiliating me, and otherwise no kind of good.

So here’s what I’ve learned.

It is not a good idea to place responsibility for your learning into someone else’s hands. For one, it is your path, not theirs. No matter how good a teacher is, they cannot tell you how to be yourself. The ones who wish you to become a version of themselves, are not good news. Relinquishing authority and responsibility into the hands of another is not a very Druidic thing to be doing, and it pays to start this at the learning stage: Hold responsibility for your own path, do not expect anyone else to have all the answers.

Teachers are flawed humans, the same as everyone else. Capable of error, misjudgement, conflict of interest and anything else you might think of. Put too much power over you into another person’s hands, and you can cause them difficulties. Put too much expectation on another person – to have all the answers, to sort your life out – and you can be asking way too much. Good teachers tend to be busy, and much as we might want them to be able to hold our hands and support us on a challenging journey, they won’t always be able to do that. We might ache for craft parents, but that doesn’t oblige or enable anyone to take on that role.

I think it works better to look at teachers in a more temporary way, as people who help with bits of the journey, not people who will define the whole thing. Go to someone to study a course, a concept, an approach – that works fine. Go to lots of different people. Learn from your peers. We all have different experiences and knowledge to bring to the table. Don’t assume, either, that a person needs a formal teaching relationship with you to be a good teacher. I’ve had some of my best experiences of being mentored with people who may not even have considered that was what they were doing.

Life and nature will teach you even if human teachers are not forthcoming. You can seek out knowledge and develop skills without needing someone else to light the way. It is a good thing to own your own journey. That means, if you do find someone along the way who can guide you for a bit of it, there’s no urge to try and drop everything you have ever needed onto them.

Letting them fly

All fledglings must at some point leave the nest. My son was telling me this morning that when it is time for bear cubs to go it alone, the mother bear chases them up a tree and then abandons them. He said he’s glad he isn’t a bear! For him, it’ll be a slower, more gentle process over the next eight years or so, but it is a process we have most definitely started. This week he’s away on a residential thing with the school, having adventures. By slow degrees, he will learn to leave the nest and fend for himself. My definition of being a successful parent is that I will get him to the point where he doesn’t really need me anymore.

There is a lot of similarity between teaching and parenting in this regard. Getting it right means getting them to the point where you wave them goodbye and watch them strike out into the world. Students and offspring alike must not be under your sheltering wing forever. The trouble is, keeping them there can be really tempting. It is very human to want to be wanted, to need to be needed. And so we can easily hang on to children, and students because we like the comfort of them being there and needing us. It can tempt us to hold back a few things, to not tell them everything, so that they still need us for a few bits and pieces. It’s not the right way to go.

In many ways students are easier, because they are more readily replaced. Most of us, on waving the newly adult offspring goodbye, are not going to go and create a whole new person to replace them with. Some of us will get a puppy instead. Students tend not to be around for so long in the first place – perhaps a few years. That makes the letting go easier, and if you’re any good as a teacher, the next one will turn up soon enough.

It can be tempting, with students, to take them on when they aren’t right for us, or to try and keep them once we find that we aren’t the teacher they need. Saying ‘there isn’t anything I can usefully teach you’ is hard. Having a whole flock of students feels like kudos, feeds the ego, helps us feel important and worthwhile. Pushing just one away feels like admitting defeat, or being a failure. It isn’t. Failure is keeping them when you can do them no good.

Of course once you’ve got a child, you’ve got a child and this is a very different scenario most of the time. It’s much less usual for a person to have to consider that they cannot parent the child they have in the best way. But it does happen. Seriously physically disabled children, or ones with profound learning difficulties can be more than it is feasible for a parent to manage. Sometimes what you need are professionals who do not have to manage things 24/7. I can’t begin to imagine how hard and painful a decision that must be to make though. There are the parents who fail so badly that social services intervene and tell them they can have no role in the child’s future. There are also the parents whose offspring reject them. That can happen at any stage in life, and as they get older, if we have messed up, they are more likely to flee from us.

What of the parent who tries to hang on to the child they are unable to properly take care of? We may feel every sympathy for them, may pity their problems, recognise their grief, but it’s not enough. Regardless of the age of the child, no amount of thinking you love them justifies trying to hang on to them when they really need to be somewhere else. It’s far easier to recognise when you aren’t the right teacher for the job than I imagine it must be to recognise that you aren’t the right parent for the job.

Getting trained as a teacher isn’t difficult, but how many of us are trained as parents, or know where to go for help when we can’t manage the workload? It’s one of those issues where I can see the problems all too clearly, and the solutions seem hard to imagine in the context of the kind of society we have.