Failure: The Greatest Teacher

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 8.45.56 PMWe re-watched SW8 (The Last Jedi) May 3rd in anticipation of “Star Wars Day” on May 4th.  I liked the movie in the theater, I liked it audio-only from the front seat in the family truckster during our Spring break road trip, and I liked it again the other day.   Part of my affinity for any Star Wars movie is the campy nostalgia it affords.  When my 15-year old says, “This is my favorite twelve minutes,” referring to a major battle scene, I think, “Really?  Nah.  Not me.  I like when Luke brushes off his lapel after all the blasting.  And I like the Teacher / Student scenes.”

Rey goes to the Island of Isolation in search of Luke, as per Leia, his sister.  Luke has no intention of helping the Rebels, Rey, or even his twin, Leia.  Luke, the bright-eyed teen in SW4 is disappointedly callus.  He is done.  “I’m not coming back.  Nothing can change my mind.”  All teachers feel this way, especially during the soul-sucking state-testing season, during year 23, and/or during a particularly (ahem) ineffective administration.  We can imagine a better life.  It might not involve milking gargantuan creatures, or spearing large fish, or living in a monastic rock hut, but it definitely involves a daily routine which is “not busy,” as Rey observes.

Rey BEGS Luke to teach her the ways of The Force.  And yet, he evades her.  How often do our students BEG us to teach them? I admit, I am kind of jealous watching Rey traipse around the island trying to wear Luke down.  Luke does not want to help Rey because he feels he has failed.  He failed as a teacher because he failed to reach Ben Solo (a.k.a. Kylo Ren).  Luke shuts himself away from the world because he feels ineffective.

Eventually Luke grudgingly decides to help.  But he cautions her, “This is not going to go the way you think,” and, “The Force does not belong to the Jedi.”  The Force is an energy between all things.  It is not a power or a person.  It is balance, not a battle strategy.  The Force reminds me of Yoga, which I do not practice nearly enough.  But, I digress.

So, Luke helps train Rey.  But before too long, Rey both scares and surpasses him.  Yoda holograms in for a quick dose of reality just when Luke is about to end it all and burn the Jedi temple and sacred texts.  “The greatest teacher failure is,” chuckles Yoda.  And, “We are what they grow beyond.  That is the burden of all masters.”  These three lines are unequivocally my favorite in the entire movie.  One day I hope to be as witty and relaxed as Yoda, but unfortunately I feel that I am still as grumpy and high-strung as Luke.

Is failure the greatest teacher?  If it is, then are we affording our students opportunities to learn through their mistakes?

Are we what our students grow beyond?  I hope so.  I don’t want my students dependent on me forever.  I want to be obsolete.

Is it a burden of all masters to be what their students grow beyond?  I think this depends on your perspective.  I actually feel prideful when my former students make it through medical school or publish a novel.  I can imagine that some masters (and parents) might not feel so proud when their children surpass them.

And so, Cheers to Star Wars Day.  I failed at getting this out on May 4th, but was determined to finish it up before the end of the weekend.  And in just a few weeks we get to see Solo !

You might like some of my other Star Wars posts…

May the Fourth be With You 2017

Do or Do Not. There is no Try. 2016

May the Fourth 2015: I am a Rebel.

May The Fourth Be With You 2014