In this article it is argued that an important task of career-long teacher education is the encouragement of imagination and creativity in experienced teachers. The task implies a reversal of the managerialism that currently afflicts so many European education systems. The article begins by giving an analysis of pedagogical relationships to expose some of the reasons that teaching is an extraordinarily complex activity, which it is difficult to do well. Indeed it is so complex that it is not something that can be learnt in advance of experience. Therefore early-career teachers need to develop their skills before they can become fully competent. However experience is not enough on its own. To become excellent - that is, more than proficient - requires a career-long commitment to self-cultivation as teachers. Part of the reason that the commitment needs to be career-long is that teaching contexts are in a continual state of change, and teachers need to adapt through a process of self-cultivation.