Now we are both retired my friend and I often end up talking about our careers. We were both in the teaching profession and knew one another almost from the beginnings of our careers and so we have a lot of common ground to talk about. Teaching is about so much more than just the teaching element. A school only runs if the adults in it all work together very closely and it is the failure to do this due to the vagaries of human nature that cause so many of the problems.
The other day my friend was reminding me about a situation that he got involved in many years ago when he was running a small unit attached to a school. He had about five staff, both teachers and classroom assistants, working with him at his direction and he in turn was answerable to the headteacher and had to liaise with the other teachers in the main part of the school. Everything seemed to be going in the usual way with his fair share of successes and problems, non of which were particularly out of the ordinary, until he appointed a lady in her mid forties onto his teaching staff. At first the new teacher seemed to fit in well and was a good teacher but gradually he started to notice a change of atmosphere in the unit. The staff seemed to be getting more touchy and critical of what was going on. Eventually he realised that his new member of staff was briefing against him, as they say in political circles. Behind his back she was constantly pointing out to the other staff things that she thought he was not handling very well. This is not a pleasant thing to discover but he handled it by raising it as an issue with the new teacher only to find that she flatly denied that she was saying anything about him and accused him of starting a witch hunt against her. In the end they had to agree to differ but it did not leave things in an easy place.
This would all have been manageable, and was, until a new headteacher was appointed to the school. Unfortunately during the course of his first year in the school he proved to be rather economical with the truth, weak in his handling of staffing issues and a bit of a philanderer both with mothers of children in the school and female staff, as well as women who were nothing to do with the school. Of course he was telling the women anything they wanted to hear to persuade them into relationships with him and trying to keep each of his relationships secret from the others. As you can imagine he was not very successful at this. My friend's troublesome teacher started to take advantage of this, becoming friendly with members of staff so that she could get their stories of their relationships or the advances the Head had made and passing them on to others to create as much mayhem as she could. His teacher appeared to have no moral scruples or conscience and did not mind what trouble she caused for people as long as she was tightening her grip on the staff in the school.
My friend became convinced that she was something of a sociopath and the final evidence of this came when he discovered from one of her 'friends' in the school that she had introduced the Headmaster to a recently divorced lady friend of hers, pretty certain that another affair would start, which it did. When her friend had given her all the intimate details of the relationship she confronted the headmaster with her knowledge and intimated that it and all his other liaisons would be in the papers (She had a connection with a reporter on one of the less salubrious Sundays) unless she got her way in whatever she wanted.
As you can imagine my friend was now completely boxed into a corner with the Head siding with the troublesome teacher and he soon found himself having to struggle to stay in his job and actually run his unit. Indeed his teacher was not only morally blackmailing the headmaster but she had manipulated the entire staff of the school into two camps who were not talking to one another. She exercised the power that she had accumulated quite ruthlessly and seemed to have the capacity to switch persona or emotional mood in seconds as she went from one person to another. My friend remembered an occasion when she shouted at him as if in rage and then turned to another member of staff and spoke quite sweetly as if nothing had happened.
My friend got through the next four years with some difficulty until eventually a change of policy meant that all the units were disbanded and the staff split up for other duties.
You may wonder why I have told you this bit of my friends history at some length. The reason is that he went on to say that it was one of the most significant things that happened in his career and a big step change in his own development. He realised that he had been given a choice. He could have found another job and left the Unit to it's own fate or possibly he might have given in to the woman's pressure to control him but instead he tried to maintain his professional and personal integrity and he tried to learn from the situation. He said that he found out so much about human nature and it's frailties as he watched what others did. But instead of resenting them for contributing to his difficulties or pitying them for their weaknesses he developed a deep sympathy for their problems and compassion for their unhappiness as he recognised that the same qualities were in himself. He also found out so much about himself because he watched how he reacted to everything. He had to deal with the weaknesses it revealed in himself as well as unexpected strengths. He felt that, over time, because he embraced his problems rather than hid from them that he became stronger from the experience and, at the same time, able to approach new situations and people, even if they were difficult or threatening, with far more openness and flexibility. He went on reflecting on the experience long after it was over and, I think, from watching him as a person and a professional, that he developed a generosity of spirit and an acceptance of others that they instinctively felt and responded to which in turn that gave them opportunities to develop as well, both professionally and as people.
I thought to myself that he was living the Lojong injunction to transform all mishaps into the path of Wisdom even though he would not have thought of himself as a Buddhist.