Markus Gull
5 colorful school bags lie on a yellow background

Happy New Year!

So now another new year begins. No, my calendar is not on speed. But I remembered many years ago that my new working year begins (if the previous one ended at all) like the school year: in September.

I can highly recommend this for imitation, if only because of two decisive advantages:

When the others start in January, you are already four months ahead of them.

2. you can skip New Year's Eve because, to borrow from Harald Juhnke, "I hate New Year's Eve, even the amateurs drink there."

My New Year's story thus begins highly officially here and now. Cheers!


In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!

Of course, there's also a series of resolutions for the postponed New Year, just like when I started school. Back then, I ritually and regularly resolved to always write my homework on time and, above all, to do it myself. The first part of the resolution became impracticable from mid-October, the second of all at the latest at the beginning of February. I simply had too many other tasks to do: reading, playing the guitar, some writing, and on top of all that, as an apologist of the Swedish philosopher Pippilotta Viktualia Rollgardina Pfefferminz Efraimstochter Langstrumpf, "Being lazy is wonderful! And then you have to have time to just sit there and look in front of you." Force majeure is what they call it. So the days, which for me also only had 24 hours, whizzed by between my fingers at breakneck speed, and in no time at all the date for the post-exam was already on the calendar.

The homework - what else could I have done - was written by myself in the morning, as quickly as eagerly, in the school checkroom, but in terms of content they relied entirely on the oeuvre of my classmates. A head start through technology, so to speak.

The story I told myself about this was that it saved the centuries-old tradition of scriptoria into the 1970s. After all, I attended a convent school. Thanks to this persistent practice, my skills in duplicating were so highly developed that, to the amazement of all my teachers, I received a flattering, juicy offer from Rank Xerox after I had passed my final exams on time. The good people of the most innovative company in the world at the time wanted to put their company nameplate on me and rent me out around the globe as a high-performance copier. However, I had other professional plans.

None of them turned out to be anything, or a little bit of something, if I think about it. I wanted to be an actor. Or a doctor. Or a writer, or at least a journalist. And, yes, no joke: teacher.

Oh, teachers! And the jokes about them! For example: As a teacher, you lead the perfect life - you're right in the morning and free in the afternoon. No, I didn't want to show that joke as an achievement in my life. Although I certainly had teachers who shaped me in the best sense. They didn't teach me much in terms of content, but as impressive, exemplary people they taught me a lot that I still benefit from today. Thank you for that!

Teacher? Just don't ...!

I ask myself: what does it tell us when teachers belong unchallenged to the group of recognized jokers in a society? Undoubtedly, many of them have dedicated their lives to nurturing this narrative with relentless dedication, but still: doesn't the fact that it could come to this point at all say much more about our society than it does about the teachers themselves? Is it any wonder, then, that in times of pandemic lockdown, tobacconists remained open as system-relevant providers, while libraries remained closed?

"But woe, woe, woe! When I look at the end," already lamented Wilhelm Busch, who knew the following in the fourth prank that Max and Moritz played on the teacher Lämpel:

So one resolution is:
That man has to learn something.
Not only the Abc
Brings man to the heights',
Not only in writing, reading
A sensible being exercises himself;
Not only in arithmetic
Man should make an effort;
But also the teachings of wisdom
One must listen with pleasure.

This is precisely what the second inverted story is about, one that stubbornly clings to our collective narratives: teachers are mediators of knowledge. Yes, of course. But especially today, when the vast majority of children and young people are hardly ever guided into life by their own parents, but by kindergarten teachers, after-school teachers and teachers, it's not about imparting knowledge, but about accompanying transformation, isn't it? Where else do we learn what life could be about?

My aunt Edda was an elementary school teacher. In addition to her demanding job in a bank, she fought her way into this profession with great passion over years of night school and then practiced it with a hot heart for a long time. Whenever she now tells me about current chance encounters with former, now gray-haired students, she never says: "Teacher, without you I would never have learned to write, read or do arithmetic, and to this day I still don't know what the capital of Taka-Tuka Land is called," but rather she talks about life-shaping memories in the sense of: "If it hadn't been for you, nothing would have become of me. You are the only one who believed in me and encouraged me despite everything."

Or Mr. Schröder. Former high school teacher Johannes Schröder - now a cabaret artist on the subject of teachers and schools - rushed along the beaches of Malle this summer, equipped with an overhead projector and a camera crew. There, he invited representatives of the education crisis generation to send their former teachers a video message via Instagram. The tenor: see above.

The external story about teachers is undoubtedly about knowledge and education. About everything that can be read, googled or obtained elsewhere. The inner story, the vital one, the one that cannot be replaced by anything (not even by AI), on the other hand, tells about the lovingly guiding accompaniment of people through their substantially formative stage of life of the manifold transformations into their most successful self. About sorting and illuminating. And about understanding that only then the real growth begins, namely that beyond oneself - beyond one's self - into a great whole, which we all are. Beyond what is commonly called success and yet all too often feels like burnout.

So we leave this noble task to jokers, or to those people whom we declare to be such? Only he who follows the fool is dumber than the fool, they say. Woe, woe, woe ...

The true teachers are not those who teach us something in life, but those who teach us about life, who help us move forward in life. Mentors who help us to achieve our goals. Or help us to recognize them first, to question them and to sharpen our view of what can be a valuable goal, what our values are or could be, and that we build our goals on our values and not vice versa. That we do not confuse our values with opinions, certainly not with the opinions of others, and thus become manipulable by everything that smells of zeitgeist.

Teachers are the ones who show us that you ask what you ask, how you ask, why you ask, and that you don't leave yourself out of the questioning.

Teachers are those who contribute decisively to whether and how we understand ourselves and thus recognize where we have grown on ourselves and where the source of our indivisible dignity lies. They are the ones who could protect us from the poison of unlived life. Yes: could, if they could.

Teachers - like farmers and artists - are among the sacred professions of society. We can't do without them. Without them we dry up in body and soul, as we experience every day all around us. Or why else are so many people thirsting for self-discovery, self-development and self-help programs that can be booked with a few excellent providers and in great numbers with influencers, selfhelp gnomes and residents of the "live your dream" joke room? But probably not, because the teachers take their place of honor deservedly(!) and therefore also get awarded. That would be, for example, on top of a table, like that of Professor John Keating, who says in the film "Dead Poets Society": "I stand on my table to remind myself that we must always look at things anew." Watch this masterpiece and see how a mentor heals himself by illuminating the world for others.

A new revolutionary story is needed, because if something is to change, the story we tell ourselves about it must change first. Therefore, here is my invitation in the form of a spirited shout-out: at the beginning of this new school year, let us have Gloria Steinem write a thought in our notebook (with trim): "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn." In step one, please unlearn the old stories we tell ourselves about teachers and then share a new one.

This new story is an important chapter in the instruction manual of the New Story Revolution, which makes us strong as a whole: as people, teams and society. Because it is, among other things, about the fact that we are all teachers, that we are and should be mentors for each other. By empowering each other rather than lecturing each other, by inspiring each other rather than beating each other, by protecting each other rather than defeating each other.

In Zen Buddhism there is a wonderful thought about this: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." Busy as I have always been, I first heard this phrase with only half an ear and understood: "When the teacher is ready, the student appears." I thought this twisted thought was fabulous for many years, and to this day I realize: it too is true without exception. Just as unqualifiedly as the true words of the American writer Elbert Hubbard: "The teacher is the one who gets the most out of the lessons, and the true teacher is the learner."

Whether I'm advising companies, supporting colleagues in their authorial work, answering questions after a keynote speech, or in my workshops, in a PowerHour or in my mentoring programs, or when I write my blog articles, I stir up trouble, instigate, brand, and thus accompany people in achieving their goals: every time I come home with a new insight, a new understanding, or a special new thought that I have gained there. This makes me grateful for my profession, which is somehow not one, but then so many at the same time, in different doses: actor, doctor, writer, journalist, teacher and all in all mentor for people with very different challenges, but always in search of their story. After a new, better one - the New Story that makes them strong.

If you feel you could use this guidance for you, your company, your brand or your team on the way to your New Story, you can find it here, here and here more. Or you can simply reply to this newsletter. We will appear to each other when we are ready and then do our homework.

So nothing stands in the way of a fulfilling first semester of the new school year, into which we shall be accompanied by a note from my grandmother, old Story Dudette, which she shared with the world on her very first day of school, while she was the only one of the snot-nosed Taferl class smoking her school bag: "New Story. New Glory."

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