Always Two Students

Almost everyone has a role where they are sometimes the teacher. We all find ourselves in situations where we have something to share, wise words to impart, direction and guidance to give, for the benefit of another.

Far fewer have the actual title and training as “teacher”, yet almost everyone, in some shape or form, teaches. Some examples are easy to pick. Parents, managers and team leaders, sports trainers and coaches, religious and spiritual leaders, community leaders, and, elders—all have a teaching role.

Less obvious teachers can be child to parent, siblings, peers, younger friends and colleagues; they can be the person next to you in class, at the gym, on public transport, in the coffee queue, or simply strangers who we encounter in daily life.

Every human interaction has the potential to be a teaching experience…and a learning experience. For though we may be teaching, we are also learning.

And wherever teaching occurs, there are really always two students present.

This assertion that there are always two students present is not a broad generalisation, or a homily, but rather a means of observing what we need to pay attention to, in the here and now.

Most often, what we are saying, “teaching”, to the other is exactly what we need ourselves. Depending on the situation, and our level of self-awareness at the time, we may become conscious of this gift.

As an advisor and executive coach, I get to experience this, a lot. Early on in my career, I began to notice that on occasions the very thing that I was working on with a client would be what I needed to pay attention to myself. At first this was a little disturbing, that the words I spoke out loud were for both sets of ears! Then, as my awareness and understanding evolved, I began to enjoy this duality of teacher and student, always two students.

To what extent have you noticed this happening for you—either in a formal situation where you are in the position of teaching or giving guidance, or maybe less formally, as when talking with a friend?

Another way in which this dynamic of “always two students” reveals itself is this.

Notice how sometimes we answer a question in a way that surprises us, with knowledge and confidence we didn’t know we had. The worthy enquiry of someone else stimulates a response from us that we did not know we knew. This teaches us, as students of our own “teaching”, something valuable for our own growth.

No matter our career, our age, our walk of life, we are all equipped to be teachers. And we are all students, always learning, always evolving, as we teach. As we become more conscious of these two roles, teacher and student, alive simultaneously within, we experience new appreciation for the opportunities presented every day for learning, for growth and empowerment, for what we need to be acting on in each moment, right now.