There are probably as many comments possible for this as there are teachers, so I would like to offer one from a very renowned teacher, the Buddha. This is a story from my book (From the Gita to the Grail
about how the Buddha dealt with a difficult person:
- The Buddha walked mindfully around the beautiful park. His morning alms had been eaten, his bowl washed, he was free to just soak in the beauty of this moment. Part of this beauty appeared before him in the form of a very agitated man, who in anger began to verbally attack the Buddha.
The incensed man was a farmer: it was the time of the harvest, but his son had just run away. Where did the young man go? To the Buddha! He had heard the Buddha give a talk and as a result he up and quit the world: he joined the sangha, shaved his head, donned a worn out old robe, and left his family in the lurch. How could the Buddha allow sons to leave their fathers: how could he encourage them to shirk their duties? Without his son, the father and the rest of the family were suffering greatly. The Buddha should be ashamed for what he was doing: corrupting the youth and changing the way society had always been.
The Buddha stood calmly still and listened deeply to every word that the farmer threw at him. After many minutes of abuse, when the farmer finally ran out of steam, the Buddha asked, “May I speak?”
“Of course,” replied the farmer, “I would love to hear what you have to say for yourself!”
The Buddha began with a riddle: “Imagine a man gave a gift to a friend, but the friend did not accept it: to whom does the gift now belong?”
The farmer answered quickly, “The gift remains with the giver.”
“Just so,” said the Buddha, “and this gift of anger that you have brought me, I am sorry, I cannot accept it. It remains yours.”
The moral of this story for you is – don’t accept your student’s anger. There is no need to justify yourself to her. You are the teacher, you are teaching the best you know how. If that doesn’t work for her, that is for her to decide. If you let her anger infect you, you will have to carry that emotion for many hours, and even days.
So, my first suggestion is to remain Teflon to angry comments. This doesn’t mean that valid criticism can’t be accepted, but angry comments are not helpful critiques.
The second approach is from another great teacher, a modern Buddha --- Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay (as he is affectionately known) suggests we look at the situation of the person in front of us, separate from their behavior. He has talks and books on this topic called “Call me by my true names.”
Basically the idea is to imagine what it must be like to be your student. You said she is known as a complainer. Out of compassion, imagine how hard her life must be if all she ever sees is the negative side of things. Imagine how miserable you would be if you were always angry with others, feeling that life was letting you down, that things were not working out the way they should. It would be a hard way to live. With understanding, you can converse with your student without getting caught up in her drama. With such compassionate detachment, what help can you offer her?
It is not about you: what can you do to make her life better? If nothing, then offer nothing, but don’t accept the gift of anger she is trying to give you.
I hope this helps a little.