Hi there, teachers of all trades!
In a moment of inspiration, I’ve selected my personal five reminders of what makes a good teacher. All of them are things I’ve observed in admirable teachers. This is also the current essence of my years in the trade.
But let me begin by saying that I take my own advice (see Nr. 4) and remind myself of these principles on a daily basis.
I hope you find this post useful and that it makes you fall in love – again – with this wonderful profession (there I go again … teaching, preaching! … forgive me…)
Please feel free to share your experiences and leave comments and suggestions. Have a good one!
- Love your students until they reveal their secret to you.
This is a quote (from whom I don’t know), but I find it so accurate that I wanted to share.
It is seductive to believe that your students come to you because of what you have to offer, and that the only thing they give in return is their money. Loving your students means that you give them the space to be themselves in your presence. Be as curious about them as they probably are about you – you will spare yourself and them great embarrassment.
Let them have time to show their „secret“.What I mean by that is the special charisma, the unique atmosphere around a person. You will not see it as long as you perceive them as unillumined seekers. The best teachers I have met were the ones who energetically put themselves „under“ their students – this doesn’t mean „less“, but „SUPPORTIVE“. These teachers were totally clear and humble in their function as way-showers, even if they delivered their message with positive pride and assertion.
What you should do is consciously engage in the energy field of your students. Watch them take in your words, give them space to breathe, to listen, to find their own answers. Be honest, speak your mind freely and express your personal wisdom by any means. But see your students as flowers unfolding in your garden. You do not actually teach a flower to blossom – you nourish it and it will do just fine on its own. To watch your students unfold through their own diligence and effort is a process that can bring tears of joy to a teacher’s eyes. Your main goal is to constantly empty yourself, and to see others with fresh eyes. Your goal is to see their beauty and talents as clearly as you can, and then teach them about who you see they are. Do this through words, actions and attitudes.
Be aware that there will be students who intimidate you because of their authority and self-reliance. Those are the ones who rely more on their inner teacher than on you. Learn from them – they are good students and should be cherished. They can show you that following the inner teacher does not in any way render the outer teacher unnecessary. This will also help you putting your own experiences with teachers into perspective.
When you love your students, you will be able to let them go once your time together is over.
- Do yourself a favor – teach only what you know completely.
Don’t mix your teaching with your current practice.Your personal practice should be just that: personal. It is the place where you get to be a student 100%, which is one of your greatest resources in teaching life. Don’t spoil that experience by trying to make your current personal journey into the journey of your students. Draw a line between your own momentary learning zone and the things you talk about in class.
I like to go back to my notes once in a while to see what I have practiced a year ago. Usually I find knowledge that I have integrated fully enough to be able to teach. It may not seem as exciting and fresh to me anymore, but it sure will be for my students.
- Talk less – hold the space.
As a teacher, you first convey an experience of mastery, and then teach the techniques.
Some teachers hope that by teaching the tools that made them have a certain experience, it will go the same for their students. But the tool is always secondary.
I often notice that when I’m with a new Yoga teacher, I seem to fall into the atmosphere of what THEY must feel like when they’re doing their Yoga. I know this because I suddenly move, breathe, and even think in patterns that are distinctly different from my way of doing things. It’s not about what they make me do. They convey their experience to me without needing to explain anything.
Instead of shooting out words, begin by putting yourself back into your cellular memory: remember what it was like to have that „aha“-moment when you first understood what you are now trying to convey. With your whole body, with your attitude and cellular memory, you create an energy field of experience that your students will learn from directly.
When you create a certain feeling tone or experience inside of yourself first, your words will be charged with the essence of that internal mode. When you mean what you say, your students will be able to follow you into that experience. Words alone will never do the trick (ha! I hate that fact). This is why personal practice is crucial.
The most strenuous part of teaching is that you are trying to create a clear inner experience while attending to the outside reality. This takes practice, but it’s so much fun!
You will sometimes find yourself in the awkward situation of having to hold the space for someone who resists the very thing you are trying to teach. Such a situation brings up all kinds of insecurities in yourself and your students. When you teach with humility, you will know whether your job is to simply let them be (because you’re just not their cup of tea), or whether you have to be stern and guide them into their resistance. This is when you learn to hold the space for your own inner student (the one learning to handle the situation) and to acknowledge that you’re running up against the very resistance you once had to overcome in yourself. Again, remember to love the student who does not want to learn your lesson by being curious instead of judgmental (and maybe ask them later what was going on for them).
- Take your classes seriously – learn from yourself.
When class is over, your class begins. Take every little word you said back home and PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. When stories, words and explanations plop into your mind while teaching – they are usually directed to you.
When I teach, I’m often so consumed by my interaction with the people, events and needs in the room, that I do not take particular note of WHOM I’m talking to. Sometimes I stop right in my tracks to remind myself I’m speaking to everyone around including my Self! Then I go home and learn from my own teaching – I test my own class and usually end up with great insights.
- Be humble – remain a student.
Never forget that as a teacher (or in any other so-called superior place), it is extremely seductive to assume the role of „The Great Wise One“.
Always remember the teachers you loved, the teachers who inspired you.
They were serving you with all their heart. They gave you eyes to see your Truth.
Like Michelangelo did with his blocks of marble, your teachers saw perfection in you already. When they gave you wisdom, it was to help you carve away the excess concepts and misunderstandings that covered up your perfected essence. Like Michelangelo, use your wisdom to carve away the fears and concerns of your students, and be passionate about freeing their innate powers. You can never make sure that your students feel the same, but your intent should be to convey knowledge that frees instead of adding on additional weight.
Be aware of the moments when you are using your position to impress or manipulate. There is a fine line, for example, between telling a personal story to teach, or doing it to prove your superiority.
This too will happen – it’s alright – but you should train yourself to be humble enough to acknowledge this part of yourself. It doesn’t have a bad intent! My experience is that I get all glamorous and haughty when I badly WANT to make an impact, but secretly feel incompetent, stupid, or out of place. By simply looking my insecurity in the eyes, I usually manage to break the spell.
In the presence of a beloved teacher, you are inspired to become more of your self. You may be unknowing, but you are never humiliated or denied your sense of discernment. New worlds suddenly appear before you, and even though you may feel like some beginner going at a snail’s pace, you are taught to rely on your excellence.
As a teacher, you train yourself to become that seeing eye – you practice seeing the gifts your students may not perceive in themselves yet. This is why you can be a teacher in any circumstance, and you don’t need a classroom to follow that calling.
If you hoard your knowledge and believe that it is your own creation, you miss the mark. Your aim is true when you strive to understand universal principles and share them through your unique voice.
Be passionate about your profession.
Be proud of your achievements – gaining wisdom is the result of sincere effort, and true knowledge is a fruit on the tree of dedication.