Writing Memoir

the missing teacher: a manifesto

be-the-teacher

I wrote a manifesto. I know, right? What was I thinking? Well, to be honest, this manifesto comes straight out of my book {the missing teacher}. It was a big deal when the “ah-ha!” hit me the first time, but now I’m so used to this idea, I don’t know what kind of impact, if any, it will have on others.

Nevertheless, I won’t feel satisfied until I’ve shared what I’ve learned. Hence, the manifesto – after all, not everyone will read my book, but a 5 page manifesto is definitely something that can be easily shared and consumed in minutes. So, there is no “I don’t have the time” excuse to do something positive, uplifting to help change the world to the kind of place we feel good about living in.

A couple of blogging friends or blamigos (bloggers + amigos = awesome; good job, Mia for coining the term) read the mani for me, but they read it for content, so any grammar mistakes are on my watch. If, however, you find something wrong or want me to add something, I’d love to hear your feedback. I’m sure it will be a work in progress.

And in honor of this event, I’m putting the hardcopy of {the missing teacher} on sale for $9.99,  the Kindle is now at the lowest price I can offer $2.99 (until I can run another promotion), and the audio on Gumroad remains “free” because what I’ve learned is when you give readers the option to pay-what-you-can-afford nice things happen.

One more thing, I’ve uploaded a PDF version of the mani on to my Google Drive, so if you want a sharable link or distraction-free copy please click here. Otherwise, read on…thank you.

Why a manifesto?
// Because I’m optimistic.
// I want to create positive change.
// I believe we can live in a kinder place.

We live in a frustrating world. On the one hand, we have everything at our fingertips. On the other hand, our reach isn’t far enough.

Gandhi is credited with saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but he didn’t say it. Regardless, there is something in those words that holds great promise. Unfortunately, the quote has become so tired and overused that it doesn’t feel like folks really know what to do anymore.

My generation, and people in general, are considered apathetic. We might be numb, but I do believe we care. I know I do. Yet, we are bombarded with so much negativity, debt and crushing news that we seem to withdraw, becoming selfish out of “survival” and despair/escape in whatever way helps us manage the days. As a result, it’s pretty damn hard to remain optimistic and feel like we can do anything to help turn around humanity.

There are, of course, great organizations and amazing people rotating the world with their hard work, perseverance and generosity.  Some of them are silent martyrs while others are companies with integrity and purpose, and it’s important to recognize and applaud their energies.

But I want to talk about the everyday person. I want to reach out to the ordinary citizens of our global society because I feel positive change will start from the ground up. I mean, it has to, the other way hasn’t worked.

Plus, I’m just an average gal. Change has to be something I can do, too. I hate sitting on the sidelines exasperated or angry or both over the latest education reform policy, war, or travesty on this or that group. I don’t have money to give. In fact, like many folks, I fear retirement because I worry I will never be able to stop working. I’m not a leader or manager or anyone important. But I consider myself a writer. I do love to write. So, perhaps I can be of service here.

When I watch how much music affects a crowd or a person, I think, music has something magical to give to humankind, but how can it bring about the change we need? Education and the arts are lost in their own mazes, at the moment. Politics and money have a stranglehold on both disciplines. And let’s not get started on government. After all, something has gone wrong when 99% of us are back to trying to make rent rather than making a difference.

So what can I do right now? What can we all do right now?

I wrote a book called {the missing teacher} and as it turned out, it became my journey to find the answers to two questions, “Why was I fired?” and “Was I a good teacher?” Answering the former allowed me to look behind the curtain of education and recognize how much class divides us. The latter allowed me to explore the question, “What does it mean to be a teacher?”

A teacher, in its simplest form, is someone who teaches. But it took getting fired as a Waldorf teacher to make me realize that the title of teacher was never something that could be taken away from me in the first place. I used to identify with the role and watch people’s reactions (upon learning I was a teacher) with fascination. Many praised me for doing the hard and thankless work of educating our youth.

This is interesting because education is universally a hot button topic and because teachers, at least in the US, are leaving the profession faster than ever. We need teachers, but we don’t seem to really value them. But let’s set aside, the notion of teacher as an occupation or job and focus on how you, me, everybody can be a teacher without stepping two feet into the classroom.

We think we are being humble and profound by claiming that we are students. It was once upon a time popular to say, “I’m a student of life.”  We are here to learn, and we don’t know it all. Great. I get it. The problem with the “student only” mentality is we go through our lives on the receiving end of any challenges or gifts we are given. And there is a wide world of difference between things happening to you versus making things happen. Also, just because you are a student of life doesn’t mean you can’t be a teacher, too.

If I’m in a public bathroom and I wipe the counter after I’m done washing my hands with soap, I’ve just taught the person watching. If I miss the trash can and reach down to pick up the trash and throw it in properly, I’ve just taught myself something and anyone else watching. And when I open the door, smile, exercise patience with someone slower than me at the grocers and drive safely, the world is watching.

This is more than feel-good deeds or being a considerate person, it’s about your actions and the weight it has in our community. We learn though watching, copying, seeing, listening and doing. Our children learn this way, sometimes to the embarrassment of the parents whose political or driving agenda has just been mouthed off by their 5 year old in public.

I don’t like the phrase role model because it has too much baggage committed to it. Now, don’t laugh, teachers probably think the occupation teacher does, too. But the word teacher has more breathing and elbow rooms attached to it. If you say, “I’m a role model” folks will probably think you’re an ass. If you say “I’m a teacher” – well, the conversation is just getting started.

Of course, you can’t go around saying “I change lives” either. People will nudge you and say, “Sure you are, buddy. Now get out of the way, so I can order my latte.”

In some ways, I suppose we have to carry this knowledge of being a teacher within ourselves like some secret superhero status. Although, if we all agreed that everyone is a teacher perhaps we wouldn’t have to hide anything. We would just acknowledge this is part of the role we have to play while on Planet Earth. Everyone has value and something to offer in our little global village.

Now, I realize this idea is touted often, “you have something to offer, you have gifts, etc,” but some of us never discover any grand or dramatic calling. We raise our children, go to work, enjoy our vacations – and we’re just fine with that. So, when I say everyone has value and something to offer, what I mean is, everyone can be kind, considerate and thoughtful and it’s amazing how these acts can affect someone (including yourself).

I walk to work and I’m usually ignored by motorists so I’m a rather cautious walker. The other day I slowed down as I approached a business driveway and was astonished when the driver had not only seen me, but slowed down to let me go first. We smiled at each other and I felt happy by his respect and attention.

Think back to the last time you witnessed someone teaching you something. Make a day of it. Then make a day of you carrying around your secret superhero status. Even when we think no one is watching, someone is. You know, like when you don’t stop at the 4-way and the cop comes out of the blue nowhere.

This is why we are so distraught over violence on TV or we shield our children’s eyes and ears to protect them from seeing/hearing bad behavior. We know we learn through copying. We want our kids to say “thank you” “please” and be thoughtful and compassionate.

It’s hard though. Sometimes I get so exasperated by people’s ME first mentality. I hate it when I’m bullied by cars as a pedestrian – or when folks cut the queue because they want to be first in line. I’m no saint.  I wish I could be more zen, but usually I’m just ready to scream.

Part of the problem is no one wants to get involved or stick their short neck out and speak up on behalf of some stranger. We’re afraid. We’re a lawsuit happy society. And it’s easier to look the other way. Although, the problem with repetitively minding your own bees and wax is living and raising a family in a community where ME FIRST is the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for taking down the big corporations that don’t give a shit about the environment so they can live 100 more lifetimes in unnecessary riches and bling. But I think we need to start caring about each other, working together, growing compassion so we are not divided. If 10 of us walk out on the job that exploits workers, but 10 more come in to be exploited, the walk out isn’t going to work.

Trust me. I’m ready for BIG change. And I know many of you are, too. But let’s make the change in ways we can manage. Let’s accept our roles as teachers.

But what about cultural differences? Won’t I get in trouble? How you raise a baby will be wildly different than I. We’re a diverse group swimming in our own ways. Yes, sure. But if a man is beating his wife on the streets of China and we all walk away, we’re teaching everyone involved that what he is doing is okay. What I’m trying to say is there are universal truths, rights and wrongs and we can stop using convenient excuses to prevent us from doing something.

Let’s do small things first though because we all can do small things, right? We are in control of our actions. Let’s say “thank you” more often and pick up trash we see on the street. Let’s make it a habit to be kind. Thoughtful gestures make my day and I know they must make yours sing, too. Habits that stick, that really stick, start off small and simple and that is where we must all begin. I’m saying you, but please know I’m talking to myself as well.

The beauty of being the missing teacher is we can do something right now, every day and in our own ways to make this world a better place to live. We don’t need more money to give, another self-help program, to volunteer or do anything big and grand to raise humankind from broken to fixed, seedling to growing, subsisting to thriving.

We fix broken by being ourselves, our true selves, through our actions – and trust me, if we all did this, we’d be teachers and students and the love we wish we had more of in the world.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

If you’d like to be part of the missing teacher revolution, I’d love to hear how you did something small and delightful or how you witnessed a Good Samaritan’s deed. Email me at lanivcox@gmail.com or add a comment here. Be brave and bold, the world is ready and needs you.

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19 thoughts on “the missing teacher: a manifesto

  1. Well said, Lani, sadhu sadhu. I like your insistence on the ordinary. My son is a teacher, an almost unbearable calling. How it can become diminished is beyond me, when so many parents are not up to the task. Bravo, let common decency rise upwards from the lowest common denominator.
    I still don’t know why you are moving to Hawaii, but can I come visit? All the best, sybil

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Sybil! But I must clear up the rumors, I’m not moving to Hawaii, just going for a little visit. I need to get ready for another big move, actually. But I’m not saying anything here yet. Where are you these days? I can’t keep up with your globe-trottin’ ways. Hugs!

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    1. Lani, I hope you are happy knowing that, following your lead, today I scolded a whole bunch of young ignorants about standing on the coral reef here in koh phangan. I got thanked by two young German couples, but not thanked by some Brits. Hahaha s xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Standing on coral reef! You are my hero! 🙂 I’m assuming you are with your partner in crime, take good care of each other. Miss you two! xxoo

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      2. Actually, we are a couple of cantankerous old birds who peck each other to bits when too close because we are so similar. So I am in koh phangan while Sandra is in ban krut. Connie is joining us in prachuap Khiri khan for songkran. Will be looking for the biggest water gun I can find. Apart from the above, of course, we keep a beady eye on each other, for at least a couple of months a year. I go back to Canada all too soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your line, “Let’s accept our roles as teachers.” As a first generation college student, I was a little hesitant to accept my role as a teacher because it seemed like a huge step! I didn’t know anybody in my entire family who had stuck with school long enough to go to college, let alone continue on to a master’s degree. It seemed like a huge undertaking at the time! I wish I had read your post about all the little ways that ANYONE can be a teacher. Great ideas here!

    -Amanda at http://teachingwanderlust.com/

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    1. Thanks Amanda. I know, right? I wish I was aware of this much earlier in life. In fact, I think it is something that can be taught to little kids as well. xxoo

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  4. YAY, Lani! 🙂 I love your manifesto. What a wonderful message to send out into the world. We need more positivity, more hope, more change. Hugs.

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    1. Mahalo Mia 😉 I can at least try, right? Here’s to trying, getting up and trying again. Thanks again for being so supportive.

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  5. I love this so much Lani! I want everyone to read it! I am definitely sharing this. It is much easier and actually much more effective to help others in ANY way we can, not just the huge problems.
    And your thoughts on the “students of life”, that really resounded with me. I always feel as though I have to be an example to my daughter, but I need to remember that everything I do can teach a person near me. It is such a great reminder.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jenny. I’m grateful that this resonated with you. As a mother and a parent I’m sure you feel lots of pressure to be a good role model, but equally as important is that everyone is a role model – children, too! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely true, that each of us is the missing teacher to ourselves and others. For myself, I have to strike a balance not to be overzealous on trying to teach or is it more “insist” on my part for the listener…?

    Teaching is communicating effectively and in a style so at least someone wants to listen but in the end, the listener, student decides on course of action.

    (I had no idea you were fired…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was rather devastating and the book was the result of me clawing my way back to sanity and forgiveness.

      And good point about the listener. This is why I say teaching is a relationship, the student has to be willing to learn and participate.

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  7. I didn’t know you published a book, Lani! This may be old news by now, but congrats!!! I’ve just downloaded it on my kindle and I’m excited to dive in and learn more about your journey. I love what you said here about how we’re all teachers to whoever sees and hears us. This is why I always try to be polite and do things like pick up the trash if I missed the trash can!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwww, thanks! I’m very grateful and humbled! And good. I love a gal who cares for the earth. Hope you enjoy the book, or at the very least, are entertained. xxoo

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