A teacher can never tell where his influence stops

A teacher can never tell where his influence stops
Thought for the Day

In today's "Thought for the Day" Dan reflects on teachers and teaching.

We all know what it’s like to fall. After all, we’ve been doing it since we were small children. And life has a habit of re-minding us that experiences of falling down, falling ill, or falling into bad habits continue throughout our lives. This is a natural consequence of what it is to be human and to have a life where meaning is woven through personal experiences of wonder and desolation.

A teacher affects eternity; He can never tell where his influence stops - Henry Adams

 But the writer Henry Adams, a keen observer of the world of human travails and travels, offers us a hopeful wisdom concerned with the role of teachers in affecting not only our individuality, but that of our collective eternity. His quote speaks of the prophetic nature of teaching.

Child learning to ride a bike

We all have teachers that have changed the paths of our lives. Sometimes the teaching is in the form of profound words and other times a nod or glint in the eye is enough to offer us a sudden breakthrough in insight or attitude. Once, I attended a private interview with the famous Tibetan Buddhist teacher of a dear friend, on his rare and brief visit to the UK from distant lands. He sat patiently as in my unacknowledged excitement, anxiety and small mind projections, I babbled on for about ten unbroken minutes about my spiritual practices and psychotherapeutic work. At a rare pause for breath, he interjected with a question; “Dan, what do you do to relax?” I told him I felt most relaxed and ‘in flow’ when surfing. “Surf more”, he replied, before waving me out of the door.

Whether a parent, a primary school teacher, a psychotherapist or a Tibetan Lama, the true teacher knows well that eternal knowledge (about oneself, others or the world) is best experienced as an authentic personal breakthrough. The wise teacher realises the wisdom of preparing the right conditions for the student to ripen or knows when to plant new seeds. This requires a careful insight into the particularity of each child or adult encountered, a seeing into the heart of things in one another.

In this retreat of sorts into our homes and families, at a time when many teachers of different kinds are also in quarantine, let us all evoke the kindness and patience of the teacher within, in our observations and exchanges with those in need of simple guidance.


The thought for the day is a short reflective writing relevant to the art of suffering well (enough) in difficult times, for parents and staff of Alice Smith. If it offers comfort amidst adversity, read the text and call it to mind when needed (even if just a short phrase from the larger text), allowing it to soak into the marrow of your bones and merge with your breath. Remember, we are all in this together…

Take good care, Dan

Author: Dan Lawrence, Primary Counsellor, The Alice Smith School

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