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Changing Social Lives: The Influence of Teachers

Updated on November 25, 2011
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I once had relations with a man who equated having multiple sexual partners with muddy water. We all start off with a clear glass of water. Every partner adds drops of different colors and flavors into the water. The more partners we take on during the course of our lives, the darker the water becomes. He was using this metaphor as a teaching aid to preach to the youth Bible study group he was volunteering for. Although he was most certainly not practicing what he was preaching (his relationship with me was proof enough of that), he found a way to communicate his personal beliefs and the way he felt based on his experiences to provide what he believed to be a positive message. The message was clear and with good intent: to stay spiritually pure, do not have sex until you find your one and only 'til death do you part. The unintentional message the children learned: people who have sex are dirty.

Everyone is capable of being a teacher. The truth of the glass of water metaphor is that it does not apply to sexual partners alone. Every individual we come into contact with for any length of time adds drops of color and flavor into our water. Modern psychology teaches us that nurture (our physical and social environments) play at least an equal role in our cognitive development and personality as nature (genetics). Two individuals going through the same experience do not always share the same lesson. Thus, those who interacted with individual A will have learned something completely different than those who interacted with individual B.

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Unlike those we simply meet on the train or view as a peer, those in the role of teacher are especially influential. When we have knowledge and experience in an area that another does not and we wish to share that knowledge and experience with them, we act as teachers. When this takes place in a more formal setting (ex: classroom, study group, tutoring, parent/child, etc.), the student looks to the teacher as a source of wisdom. The teacher is no longer in a position of "this is what I believe; take it or leave it as you will." Instead, the teacher's words are considered truth. Like sponges, the students will take in everything the teacher says even if those things are disclosed as purely personal beliefs not to be regarded as facts. The drops of color and flavor from teachers are much larger and in higher quantity than from others.

Considering the importance of teachers in our lives, there can be no doubt that what a teacher preaches will have a direct impact on our social lives. In general, teachers have the best of intentions for their students. When personal experiences and beliefs are interjected into the curriculum, the teacher's intent may be no more than to help illustrate the course material in a way the students can relate to. However, a student may focus on the personal beliefs of their teacher and adopt them into his or her own personal belief system. This can completely change how the student interacts with others and views the world.

In the case of the man with the glass of water metaphor, he wanted only to provide a positive message of the spiritual benefits of celibacy. However, student perceptions interacted with his message to create a different message. Rather than understanding that biological and hormonal effects of sexual intercourse can lead to problems when an individual is not ready for the experience and that recognizing being "ready" takes time and consideration, the students understood that the act of sex makes one dirty no matter the circumstances. This can create a negative mindset of taking away compassion for rape victims or for acceptance of a widow or widower to take on a new spouse. It also implies that anyone who chooses a different lifestyle is wrong. A message that was meant to illustrate a suggested way of life turned into a message of discrimination.

Fortunately, the other truth of the glass of water metaphor is that the colors and flavors do not always blend. The water never becomes muddy. Rather, the experiences we have with others will stay separate or blend together to form more beautiful colors and delightful flavors as our needs in life dictate. Our water was never meant to stay clear. If it were, we would never leave the comfort of the arms of our mother and take a step into the world. Teachers have a strong influence over students, and those students may take the preachings of their teachers to new levels. Likewise, a student may recognize the personal beliefs for what they are, absorb the drops of color into their water, and move on without changing. Teachers do need to possess a level of awareness when sharing personal beliefs and experiences if only to be aware of how their message may be misinterpreted. However, the changes that take place in one's social life are purely the result of the combination of all colors and flavors in one's glass. We change because we choose to change no matter whose influence we focus on the most.

© 2011 Evylyn Rose

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    • Evylyn Rose profile image
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      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      DFiduccia, thanks for the comment. I think you are misunderstanding this hub. This is about the influence of those in the role of teacher, not the profession. :)

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      You state your case clearly and it is, of course, your opinion. Yes, there are incompetent teachers, but there is also a wide range of incompetence in every field of our society. There are incompetent ministers, police officers, lawyers, parents, and on and on. As hubbers, we need to be cautious about myopic generalizations and attempt to remain objective with our ability to sway others. We should avoid ostracizing any group formed from a personal bias based on isolated cases of perceptional observation.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image
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      Evylyn Rose 5 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Great points! Thanks for commenting. Yes, there is a serious lack of respect to school teachers by parents that only sets the stage for the way children will respond to their teachers. Of course, school teachers aren't the only teachers individuals meet in life. Teachers come in all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and walks of life, and have varying levels of professionalism and knowledge. Likewise, the students are not always school-age children. Students may be children or adults of any age. Keeping this in mind when trying to understand the influence of teachers in our social lives is very important.

      One of the main problems with why school teachers are so disrespected is because some of them aren't teachers. Yes, they carry that title as part of their profession, but they are not fulfilling the role of a teacher. Some go to college, pay for their degree (as many higher education institution are in the business of passing students, not actually grading them and awarding degrees by merit), log some hours in a classroom, and then get thrust into the school setting. They will either become real teachers by reaching out to the seasoned teachers and learning on the job, or they will quickly come to realize that current policies and legislation leave them in a position to be babysitters and carry on the passing of students the same way they were in college. So because of those who don't even try to be real teachers (and just do their jobs) or those who try and fail because of the system, parents and students alike stereotype all the teachers and treat them equally with disrespect.

    • SpanStar profile image

      SpanStar 5 years ago

      The dynamics for raised a child today is much different than years past. Years ago parents for the most part respected and valued teachers. There was an understanding between parent and teacher who work together to achieve the objective of educating their children years ago. But now it's a new day baby if a teacher reports a disruptive student with a history of bullying now with parents who may be financially stable they may feel the need to threatens and sometimes sue the school for picking on their disruptive child.

      Teachers in the past used to be able to reach out to their students in such a way that they build a rapport. The way relationships are now a teacher could be put on suspension or even fired for saying something which may be considered inappropriate.

      Times have changed and teaches cannot conduct relationships the same as they used to, when a society is focused primarily on self-do what the contract says and nothing more. Our attitude as a society will have to improve if society is to improve.

    • Evylyn Rose profile image
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      Evylyn Rose 6 years ago from Colorado, USA

      I agree there is considerably more disrespect toward teachers than in years past. However, the level of influence from teachers is still very much there. At younger ages the influence is more noticeable. As students grow older, the disrespect increases, but the students still absorb the influences from their teachers.

      A student may not always do as their teachers say or advise, but that does not mean the student does not listen. I have had several friends and relatives that were like this. They misbehaved or didn't take classes seriously. They acted up or did not bother to give the respect their teachers deserved. However, years later they look back at what their teachers said and realize they should have done as they said sooner. In the case of some past students I've had classes with, I've noticed that they are acting on the influence of a past teacher without even realizing it.

      The students may not act on the influence for years, but the influence is still there. That is why I am sad to see teachers who lose their desire to teach. The students are so uncaring that they feel they are wasting their time and aren't making the difference they had hoped to. Yet the truth of the matter is that the students really do take what they say to heart even when they don't act like it. The disrespect toward teachers is a case of "we get too smart too late." I do believe children need to be taught early on that their teachers require respect while they are students and not years later when they may regret the way they behaved in class.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      You bring up many important points in this hub, Evylyn Rose. My family hosts a number of teachers, from siblings to cousins to my father and daughter. Teaching was actually my first choice of career, yet life had a different path for me.

      Teaching is a worthy profession because, outside of the home teachers DO influence children. Yet, in this day and age literacy still exists in high numbers. Some cannot read at all; others are functionally illiterate. It saddens me. They well never know the joy of what I have as a reader and writer...they will always walk in the shadow of the fullness of their potential.

      But, children in class are not respectful, like they were when I went to school and the teacher was revered. They are not respectful, like when my children went to school. Just ask my daughter, hubber Cardelean about this. She teaches 4th grade and can tell you there has been a shift in the system.

      Partially, I feel, is the lack of respect that our culture has shown these children by the continuous beating down of the teachers union and their contribution to our society.

      Yes, teachers influence kids...but, perhaps not as much as your hub presents. I think ideally we like to believe that this is happening more often than it actually is.

      Interesting hub-thanks for sharing!