Thursday, May 15, 2014

Teaching Flow

Greetings all,

Each week I do my best to try and glean useful insights from my life to present to you my dear readers. I am not always successful in this.  Still I honor my commitment to write.  I do hit dry patches from time to time and other times I have to write down all the ideas I have for topics before I forget them.

This week I am going to be musing over teaching.  For those of you who are not regular readers you may not know that I recently was hired by a wellness center to teach tai chi.  This is something I have been practicing for half my life, and I have taught small classes in the past.  After seven years of studying with a teacher I was named a Sifu.  It was rather a shock when it happened.  The term Sifu can be translated as master or as teacher.  I usually prefer the latter as I don't feel like the master of anything.  

Of all the hats I sometimes wear (metaphorically speaking because I'm not much of a hat person) I find the teaching hat to be the most challenging.  It doesn't matter what I'm teaching whether it be a crafting technique, energetic alchemy, or tai chi,  teaching a concept is much more difficult than getting it yourself.  Just because you know a topic very well doesn't mean you can automatically convey that understanding to another person.  I remember when I was in art school there were some professors that were brilliant artists, but honestly sucked at teaching anything be it technique or theory.  A few had the rare gift of being talented artists and teachers.

Teaching is its own skill one that is unfortunately not valued very highly in our society.  You only have to look at the way we treat public educators to see just how little we value good teachers.  In the East the traditional role of the teacher was one of very high esteem.   The term Sifu is a prime example is it teacher or master?  It is in actuality both.  The bond between master and student was a sacred trust.  I am very fortunate to have had gifted and generous teachers on my path.

So I do my best to accept the challenge of teaching and to make it all seem to flow.  With something like tai chi you have to connect with the intelligence of your own body and convey it to the intelligence of the students' bodies.  They have to get it on a visceral level.  I can talk about wu wei, the idea of effortless action in our movements, but that is just words.  The trick is to get my students to feel it and then cultivate it themselves.  It's not easy but it does invigorate my own practice and also helps me with letting go of expectations.  I have to meet people where they are and move at their pace rather than rigid linear lesson plan.  (I do write those and then rewrite them about twice as often).

So how does any of this apply to you?   Chances are you've been saddled with trying to convey a skill or information to someone at some point, if not just wait you will.  Do you value the skill of teaching?  Do you value those who make teaching their life's work?  Have you ever considered the amount of effort that goes into teaching and mentoring?  Think back on your life, who were your favorite teachers?  What did they have in common?  Maybe you should take a page out of their book and give the art of teaching some thought.

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle

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