What Teaching Teachers Has Taught Me

teaching methodologyIt is hard to believe that I started teaching 27 years ago.  I can still remember how hard it was to suddenly be on the other side of things.  The responsibility was huge, as people were following me as a teacher instead of me being the student.  In 2011, I made a huge decision.  After teaching in so many gyms, schools, hospitals, yoga studios, conferences, and international events, I felt like I had paid my dues and then some when I finally started my business and wrote my first teacher training program.  I had no idea what this experience was going to teach me and what I had not yet understood.  Having met so many people in my career, I had an idea of all the different teaching personalities and styles out there.  I figured that since I had been a conference presenter for so many years that I knew what I wanted to convey in my courses.

I love to teach and have always wanted to help create teachers.  Since the start of my program, I have now completed nine 200 hour teacher training courses and have taught many 300 hour courses.  Not only that, I have had the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of instructors from yoga, group fitness, personal training, program design, continuing education, and fitness management.   I have close personal relationships with teachers who have taught fitness and yoga nearly 40 years with a consistent group of faithful students and clients.  I myself am amazed that I have continued to be able to work steadily in such a demanding field with so many talented people.

I have learned some things along the way.  One consistent theme that I see is that teachers are born.  NOT teaching would be death to someone called into this profession.  They have a constant need for improvement, both professionally and emotionally.  They take advantage of every opportunity, large or small, to communicate their knowledge to others.  They are not complacent.  There is a constant need to challenge what they know in order to strive for the truth.  They show up.  I have gotten to the point that I can detect in five minutes of an interaction with someone in a course or class of mine whether they will be a great teacher.  They stand out.  They question.  They challenge.  They push boundaries.

Many of the greatest teachers have had the most set-backs.  I know for myself, my eating disorder as a teen and knee surgeries as an adult have been catalysts for learning about anatomy and self-acceptance.  They have also made me very humble.  I have seen others with similar backgrounds come through my courses.  They tell me about their reasons for wanting to become a teacher, whether battling low self-esteem, panic attacks, physical injury, childhood trauma, or just the result of good old-fashioned inspiration from a teacher that they have had in their past.   I have always said that these are GIFTS.  They propel teachers onto a path that will allow them to go into the psyche of their students and know what their pain feels like.  They learn to help others through their example.

Great Teachers stay the course.  I have seen those teachers who are always signing on with the latest trend, whether or not the trend goes against what they taught in the past.  These teachers are flash-in-the-pans.  No depth.  Their Facebook pages are full of self promotion and “look what I can do” pictures.  I tell you….the teachers who are truly genuine will be consistent.  They will have a message that they may improve upon, but the message is clear and consistent.  Their work speaks for itself.  People experience time with this teacher and their lives are forever changed.  Students will stay with this teacher long-term because of the stability and consistency.  There is no need for a truly talented teacher to “lorde” over his or her students.  Look at some of the greats: Jesus Christ, Buddha, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou…. They have no need for publicity.  They are this person whether popular or not, rich or poor.  They show up every day.  No exceptions.  They stand for something and you won’t see them compromise.

Great teachers are students themselves.  No one knows everything.  Great teachers have no need for academic arrogance, pretense, or hypocrisy.  They are on a constant path of challenging what they know and the method by which they deliver information to their students.  They never have the need to make another person feel stupid or insignificant because they know that they are here to help and to inspire.  They never claim to know everything, because great teachers know that they may learn something new that causes improvement.  Great teachers refer to their accomplishments by saying “I am on the path”. They themselves have mentors and teachers that they study with and become inspired by.

Great teachers let very few people into their inner circle.  I once heard a sermon from Joel Osteen that inspired me.  He was discussing how Jesus only had 12 disciples.  On top of that, he only had a few that he held the most closely, such as Peter and John.  This is so important.  Great teachers don’t need a fan club.  They need to find friends that will assist them on their path.  The path is the most important thing. Great teachers will not spend their time socializing or pleasing people who do not understand their dharma or want to help them on it.  The reason?  They have a purpose and will not do anything to jeopardize it.  Their inner circle is likely made up of those on a similar path, all working to illuminate the path even more.

Great teachers rarely tell you their plans.  They don’t need to brag to others what they intend to do.  It is something they must do on the inside.  All they want to do is hear about the needs of their students and want to serve.  They are truly there in service to their students.  They operate from a knowing that they are meant to do the work they are doing.  There is no need to defend it.  They don’t need anyone to justify or get approval so that they can show off.

I often hear about how hard it is to get through the 200 hour course.  Some complain that it is so hard to find time with their other life commitments to study.  I also hear it is expensive to take courses and that its just not in their budget to teach.  I guess I have to say… those who are meant to teach will find a way.  They will not falter.  They may get tired.  They may feel the resistance to moving forward, but somehow they overcome it.  And they do it again and again.  They are the ones who will always have students and constantly create / inspire.  They will have a life of purpose, which is the greatest gift of all.  I myself am so proud to have known and trained under some of the greatest teachers.  They inspire me to be better every day.  I am so grateful to have been a part of the gifted teachers who continue to excel in their fields.  My dad reminds me of the quote from Major Dick Winters of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, portrayed in the Stephen Ambrose book “Band of Brothers” who recounted in an interview exchange between himself and his grandson.  He said his grandson asked him “Were you a great hero in the war Grandpa?” and he answered, “No, but I served with a company of heroes.”