True Educator: A Gift of Hell

R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D.

For the true teacher, teaching is not a technique, it is his [sic] way of life; like a great artist, he would rather starve than give up his creative work. Unless one has this burning desire to teach, one should not be a teacher. It is of the utmost importance that one discover for oneself whether one has this gift, and not merely drift into teaching….[1]

A few years ago I was proud to be invited to write about my 45 years as an educator and speak my truths about the state of Education.[2] Now, I write this second review, much shorter and for a broader audience, on my far less prideful realization recently on being a teacher—and falling short of being what philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti (K) would call “the true teacher.”

My recent foray back to reading K’s Education and the Significance of Life was not just a reading. It ended up in a desire to type this book out word-for-word. I last read it in the late 1990s. What an existential discovery then, while I was completing my Masters in Education. K was talking my kind of language. He was my go-to-guy; and I promised that this would be the book I would promote above all others to every teacher/educator I ever came across.

I have that kind of excessive prophetic passion to transform the world. It started in my teens and took a few different routes. Unfortunately, passionate reformers like me are dangerous things. There’s a good and shadow-side to that. The shadow-side began subtly and grew—unbeknownst to my vision to make the world a better place. Long-haired and rebellious, I played revolutionary Beatles songs in the 1960s and hated schooling; I went to college to train in wildlife management in the 1970s; and, I became a famous Canadian wildlife painter in the 1980s. I sure knew my place in the world. Very confident I had something to teach everyone. Yet, my actual commitment to be professional educator, i.e., school teacher, came not from mere “drift into teaching” but from a less than loving place for humanity and teaching.[3] Relentlessly, a meaningful and painful life-lesson, the shadow intruded.

One day while walking along a path on a beautiful sunrise morning, counting ducks on the lake in the middle of the wild prairies of Alberta, my mind fluttered. “And I get paid for this? This is the best career in the world…. [and shift] But wildlife is not the problem with the world. People are.” There was the distinct voicing of this which came from a transpersonal place, is all I can say.

Next day, I started looking into a Bachelor’s degree in Education, of which I would teach secondary science. The short of that story is, I am here today with multiple higher degrees in education (yes, Ph.D.) and I volunteer at a daycare center just down the block. How did I end up…here? In this brief reflective piece of writing, I turn to K’s “right kind of educator” as one who “is deeply and truly religious.”[4] He doesn’t mean it like it sounds on first take. He means earnest, honest, heart-centered, at peace. I understand K’s existential-spiritual critique of drifters. I realize I never have loved humanity, religiously, like he suggests educators must. Rather, I went into education to change humans—not love them.[5]

Of course, K then tells us that the real problem of education is “teachers” (and parents)—when it comes to improving the field.[6] My self-knowledge and freedom pursuit has led me from promoting peace education, environmental education, Freirean education, holistic education, transpersonal education, to fearlessness education. I had the ‘right’ way to change the world! But my deepest desire was selfish—fearful—not a gift. I was facing hell for my children’s future, all children—and, my face and motivations reflected that hell. I thought it was love. Basically, I was too often motivated to criticize humanity, and then criticize its ‘sick’ education. All very understandable, when one looks at the massive crises we face in the Anthropocene era. Yet, K’s teaching for teachers is hitting me like hell on wheels, and at age 71, I really am now rethinking my creative work, my mission for a liberation education. “Rethinking” is a euphemism. “Unless one has this burning desire to teach, one should not be a teacher,” says K. I agree; and word-for-word now having typed out his book, there is the awareness and feeling of a dark place inside me: that, I never wanted to teach, I wanted to change people—humanity—the world. Now what?

[1] Krishnamurti (1953/81), p. 109.

[2] Fisher (2019).

[3] What I had was a ‘religious’ loving of Nature that drove me; my trouble was with Culture.

[4] Krishnamurti, p. 109.

[5] K. wrote of the problem of ideological ideals as problematic: “without love no human problem can be solved” (p. 27).

[6] “The real problem in education is the educator” (p. 36).


Fisher, R. M. (2019). Post-adult education alternatives in 45 years of learning/teaching: An integral-informed autoethnographic reflection. In V. Bohac-Clarke (Ed.), Integral theory and transdisciplinary action research in education (pp. 339-56). IGI Global.

Krishnamurti, K. (1953/81). Education and the significance of life. Harper & Row.

Posted Dec 28, 2022 in