Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my son, Kirk. He’s a quiet, loner kind of teen and a very talented artist. Last fall Kirk signed up for a drafting class with a teacher I’ll call Mr. Lane. Kirk loved the artistic aspects of the class and appreciated the structure Mr. Lane brought. All was well until Mr. Lane received our district’s Teacher of the Year award. According to Kirk, after that Mr. Lane began demanding greater accuracy and precision from this beginning drafting class. He also started bragging about the award and other accomplishments he’d had that the students would probably never obtain. Kirk is having a really hard time with this and wants to quit the class. Is there anything I can do to help him stay in a class he loved? Signed, Mom Who Cares
Dear Mom: It’s very unfortunate that a class Kirk so enjoyed has taken such a turn for the worse. And of course, it’s a difficult situation because Kirk is in no position to challenge how his teacher acts. But I do think there is a very definite elemental personality interaction occurring between the two, so let’s see if we can offer some assistance to Kirk.
You describe your son as a “quiet, loner kind of teen and a very talented artist.” In the Five Elements model, this would equate to the Water personality. And based on your descriptions of Mr. Lane, it sounds like he is a primary Metal personality; precision and structure are hallmarks of the Metal element. It says a lot about Kirk’s flexibility that he was able to embrace the structure Mr. Lane brought to the drafting class. Water people usually don’t appreciate someone interfering with their “go with the flow” nature. Clearly, your son is open enough to being guided (which can also be a Water energy trait in balanced Water people) that he embraced Mr. Lane’s direction. Good for him.
I suspect what’s happened is that the attention Mr. Lane received for winning the teaching award caused him to develop an exaggerated sense of self. Certainly, the award would have reinforced in Mr. Lane the “correctness” of his approach to teaching. And for a Metal person, more of the right thing is frequently seen as a good thing. This response likely caused the Metal aspects of Mr. Lane’s personality to increase to the point that he is currently operating from an excessive Metal place. And this is affecting the relationship between Mr. Lane and Kirk (and probably many of the other students).
In the Five Elements model, Kirk and Mr. Lane relate on the Nurturing Cycle, with Metal feeding Water. At first glance, one might think that more Metal energy would feel good to a Water person. But that isn’t always the case. Relationship dynamics aren’t just about how the elements relate on the Nurturing or Controlling Cycles of the model. There are many other characteristics associated with each elemental personality that can impact how they get along. The relationship between Kirk and his teacher is a perfect example of the difference in structural preference having a greater impact on the relationship than the cycle dynamics in the model. So let’s talk about structure.
The good news in a Water/Metal relationship is that the Metal person can offer a great deal of synthesized wisdom to the Water person for it to use as inspiration going forward. The bad news is that the Metal person is always going to be more structured than the Water person. That’s because Metal is the most structured element of the five, and Water is one of the least (Fire is usually considered to be less structured that Water). The reason a Water/Metal relationship can work at all around the issue of structure is that the Water personality is usually mellow enough to accept a certain degree of structure, then flow with it. Kirk demonstrated this brilliantly in his initial appreciation of Mr. Lane and his class. But now that Mr. Lane has become dismissive, controlling, and over-structured, it’s understandably become too much for Kirk and his Water personality.
However, because Kirk likes the class so much, let’s look at some of the ways he can try to stick it out. In the Five Elements model, the element that controls Metal is Fire. If Kirk wears red shirts (red builds Fire energy) to the class this might tone down Mr. Lane’s Metal around Kirk. The fragrance of selected essential oils can also balance Metal energies. Eucalyptus and lemon are especially good. I don’t know if Kirk would be willing to place a few drops of either oil on his skin when he attends the class, but that could help, as well.
Ultimately, the dynamic of teacher to student in our culture is usually so one-way – especially with a Metal personality teacher – there might be little Kirk can do to change how Mr. Lane relates to his students. But as Kirk’s mother, you could speak with Mr. Lane, or someone else at the school, to help Mr. Lane see that he’s gone a bit overboard in the structure and control department (the need for control is another aspect that is exceedingly important to the Metal personality and is usually heightened in people with too much Metal energy).
And please remember that a wonderful aspect of Metal people in general is that they are usually very wise and reasonable. This means that a few well-placed words from you or the principal might bring Mr. Lane back to the kind, Metal person he was. I would certainly give it a try. You would be offering a great service to both your son and Mr. Lane. Blessings to you!