I have encountered this quote a few times over the years. Back in college, sometimes a teacher would say it. Other times I might read it, usually in a context of learning or growth, often from an angle of Eastern philosophy.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
There has been interesting discussion about the origins of that statement. This post is not about that.
Rather, I want to explain the understanding I am drawing from it. Unsurprisingly, this has evolved over time.
I am thinking about this in three ways.
Let’s take a look.
One interpretation here essentially centers around a single question: How much does the student want this? If they want to learn but find themselves without access to a great teacher or mentor, they do everything they can to get ready.
You learn whatever you can by yourself and with whatever resources you can find. It is testing your passion, your will, your creativity. You do enough of that, then presumably the stars will align and that great teacher will become available to you.
Perhaps you work really, really hard. You get to a place where you are able to demonstrate a certain level of capabilities and then doors will open for you. It happens. There is value in the effort you put into it, either way.
This is one take.
The second interpretation is quite different. Here, teacher and student have met. Both teacher and student are aware of their respective roles. And yet, something is amiss. The student is not ready and is effectively preventing themselves from learning. They are standing in their own way, likely without realizing it.
Perhaps you have found yourself in a class, where you had trouble motivating yourself. There can be distractions, other interests, maybe you had trouble seeing the importance of this particular effort. Or maybe you are in that class with that teacher, but your mind is already full.
It is difficult to learn, if you believe you already know.
My final take here is that the student can shift their perspective to realize two things: The teacher does not have to be a person and the lessons do not have to be deliberate and can still be instructive. This is an intriguing change.
You observe reality unfolding around you and find the teachers and their lessons that help you grow and learn and make sense of what you find. It could be that neighbor, who never seems to smile nor want to return your greeting. Perhaps it is those salads you buy with the groceries every week, but then have to throw out, because you never actually eat them. Maybe it is you and how you feel, when certain headlines catch your eyes.
It is there, if you are receptive to see.
I have found value in all of these, at different times. That is part of it, too. Use the perspective that is most helpful in navigating your current path.
You are the student.