Characteristics of a Great Teacher

I have had the good fortune of having some exceptional teachers currently and as part of my history. I also have had the fortune of having contrasting situations as a student. Each situation taught me a great deal and the contrast was itself, the ultimate teacher. Every time I have the opportunity to teach, I remind self what made my favorite teachers so valuable, and what made my less-than-favorite teachers so difficult. . . applying the former and avoiding the latter.

There are many characteristics that come to mind when thinking of some of the great teachers in my life. Passionate, skilled, ability to personalize instruction and drawing the best from students come to mind quickly.

A great teacher is brimming with energy and that passion is contagious. They continually light the fuse for themselves and serve as a model for others to follow. They never light the fuse FOR the student; rather, they point out the fuse and the matches. It is the student’s responsible to mix the two.

Of course, their skill level is very high. Some of the very best teachers I have had were also some of the very best practitioners in the country. This however, is not always a pre requisite. Yes, skill is a must but sometimes, a great teacher was not always a great practitioner. Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers comes to mind. Hall of Fame manager. Sub-par player. Some are blessed with the mind and the heart, but not always the body.

Everyone is built differently and the great teachers adjust to their students’ physical and emotional makeup. Some love to be pushed hard. Others will crumble under such pressure. It does not make the former strong and the latter weak. It makes 2 people uniquely different. As such, they should be taught in much different fashions. A great teacher will see this quickly and adjust.

Drawing the best from each student was one of my favorite characteristics. My best teachers would put the goal (metaphorically speaking), an inch beyond my reach. It would dangle in front of me closely enough to serve as a huge motivator, yet just beyond, causing me to work hard and in a dedicated fashion toward it. Put things too close to the student and they lose interest. Make it too difficult and they lose heart. Correct distant is a tremendous key to outstanding teaching.

I think if there were characteristics that jumped out from the world of contrast it is these 2– Everyone want to be treated with Respect, and wants to be Inspired.

Respect. Do unto others. . . .

Correct their actions. Make it about their action, not themselves. Most people are not professional athletes. They are doing this for fun, for self-growth and other personal factors. In my martial arts school, my students are not learning to be SWAT or special forces members . They are business people, mechanics and waiters. There is never a need to belittle, embarrass or correct in such a way that it affects their core.

Inspired. What heights can you reach. . . .

I have often said that the number one cause of disease – being it physical or emotional – is boredom. It has caused more illnesses, deaths and heartbreaks than all of the cancers combined. The cure is simple – Inspiration. People want to be challenged. They want to release their Soul to soar like an eagle. Physical events or activities is a great method of accomplishing this. Doing pushups or defending a front kick may not change the world. It may change an individual’s world though, with Inspiration serving as the driving force behind it.

Take care of these 2 and you have the makings of a booming school with happy students. Dismiss these and regardless of talent or pedigree, you will be one lonely teacher.

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