In some nondescript, intuitive, immeasurable, non-quantitative, inexplicable way I have begun to sense who the good martial arts instructor is and who is the journeyman that merely shows up and makes a presentation in TaeKwonDo. The difference is not so much what each knows, what information each has stored in his or her brains, or what ready knowledge each has at his or her finger tips, or how each has their version of TaeKwonDo. It is what each brings or does not bring to the student as a human being. Being human is not an arrangement of flesh and bone. It is a way of thinking, acting, and doing.
A good instructor is one who rises above the others with something extra.
- They are competent and know their subject, but do not identify so strongly with their discipline that they lose their humanity.
- They go beyond the mechanics of presentation, of organising a class, outlining what to teach in a class, being prepared, creating what is needed to know by the student, grading performance, being prompt, and so on.
- They interplay on the mind, heart and spirit, for they believe that teaching without love is shallow and hollow, perhaps wrong and meaningless.
- They teach “wholeness” and realize that learning is not separated from other aspects of human activity.
- They are concerned with feelings and thoughts. They are concerned with the spirit and emotion of the student as well as the intellect realising that they are all interconnected and interacting parts of the same person.
- They believe that love and caring is good teaching and don’t let or technique substitute for caring.
- They believe that helping students is more important than how they feel and what is comfortable for them.
- They are more concerned with the learning styles of the students rather than their teaching style.
- They come as lovers of learning, as classroom stimulants rather than barbiturates.
- They find benefit and the positive in all student efforts and attitudes, and don’t know what a “wrong” or “can’t” is.
- They do not look for students in their classes and therefore find only individual human beings.
- They are more concerned with the question “who are you” than the statement, “I am the instructor.”
- They are more concerned with the question, “are you learning” rather than the statement, “I am teaching.”
- They are in a relationship with the students rather than with the teaching topic, techniques, and/or class presentations.
- They do not entice, seduce or threaten with penalty or reward, by popularity, by grades, or by “feeling good.”
- They earn respect rather than exercise authority and power.
- They care not only about their subject, but what goes on in the hearts and souls of each student.
- They listen more than they talk.
- They proclaim far less their ideas than help students to generate theirs. Their actions are designed to meet the needs of the students, not their own.
- These instructors are nurturers. For them, everyone has potential. Everyone belongs in their classes. No one is a loser. No one is poor. No one is worthless.
- Their classes offer every student the opportunity to succeed.
- Their classes are filled by the enthusiastic spirit of humility, concern, trust, care, encouragement, community, respect, challenge, growth, and dignity.
- Their classes are cluttered with creativity, vision, and imagination. Their classes are loving and nurturing worlds of adventure, worlds of growth, worlds of transformation, and worlds of discovery.
- They are never in a comfort zone, never complacent with themselves.
- They are demanding of themselves as they are of their students.
- They make teaching seem so artful and effortless because they never stop working hard, never stop researching on their own, never stop reflecting and examining themselves, and never stop carefully reflecting.
- They struggle to understand why they became instructors, struggle to articulate the purpose and goals of their care, and always ask “Why do I do what I do?”
- They care about what goes on inside their own heart and soul, and understand that they are not unending fountains of wisdom or sacred caretakers of knowledge. Boredom and routine are not their companions.
- They get up excited each morning and can’t wait to teach. For them teaching is a calling.
- They struggle not to be imprisoned in their own personal and professional ivory towers.
- They are humble. For them there are no sacred cows. Change is a welcome challenge.
- They leave the classroom convinced a better job could have been done.
- They assume responsibility when something doesn’t work in class.
- They are sufficiently defined inwardly that they know how to say to students, “I don’t know, but let’s find the answer together.”
- They are learners who realize that they teach best not what we know but what we want to learn.
- They act the way they want the students to live, with a value for themselves and each other, with values greater than the selfish, competitive, material rat race.
- They somehow understand the spirit of each student and touch that spirit.
- They come closer to the students, treat them with respect as individuals, and talk about themselves as human beings.
- They add to the stature of the student as a thinking, feeling, contemplating person.
- They embark students on unending voyage of discovering new interests and powers within themselves.
- They understand that doing TKD is not just a preparation for belts, but for a meaningful life.
- They dream big dreams, dreams not limited to the timely life of the dojang, but expansive, daring, and timeless dreams of life beyond the dojang.
That’s my feeling of what a good instructor is. I have to maintain my “A” in teaching the students.
(BTW, believe it or not, there are some TKD instructors that fulfils just about every criteria mentioned above. Does yours?)