Friday, March 06, 2009

When we are what we “aren’t”; when we aren’t what we “are”

Labels like "parent," "teacher," and "neighbor" fix us in the language and in the thin crust of perception, but they don’t make us what we are.

How many “parents” really aren’t parenting? Ever had a “teacher” who didn’t teach? “Ministers” who didn’t minister? “Administrators” who couldn’t administer? “Students” who don’t study — or learn?

You get the picture, but it isn’t all bad.

For every “teacher” who doesn’t’ teach, dozens of “non-teachers” do. Who has taught you the most in the world? I’ll bet she or he wasn’t a “teacher.”

For every “student” who doesn’t study, hundreds of “non-students” do.

For every “parent” who doesn’t parent, dozens of “non-parents” do. They might be next-door neighbors, school bus drivers and, yes, teachers.

Each of us would be more effective if we recognized ourselves for what we are, not what we are labeled.

I am a “teacher” at a community college, but often I find myself being a parent, or, at my age, a grandparent.

Often I try to be what I think an “adult” should be. Yes, it still takes a conscious effort.

Imagine answering the question “What do you do?” with “I’m an adult at a community college. And, yes, they pay me for it.”

Am I a teacher? I think so, but those who know the answer are my students. Or should I say “students”?

So, what are you beyond your label? If you don’t know, find the answer. It might surprise you.

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Anonymous Nick Nielsen said...

Regarding labels, perhaps you might find it interesting to look at my recent post, Six Species of Political Identity, which is all about the labels we apply to ourselves and to others.


Nick Nielsen

12:26 PM  

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