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Your Best Teacher

The yoga class was all atwitter – literally, they were all on twitter, because this is the kind of class where, even when they say to leave your phones outside, they don’t – Dave* was gone! Everyone’s favorite teacher, Dave was someone everyone would come even to the very early classes for and, as everyone alternately gossiped and moaned, “Who’s going to be the new teacher?” “You know they won’t be half as good!” – I started thinking, what makes a good teacher?

A good teacher is someone everyone wants whether you like the subject or not, whether you want to be in school at all or not. I’m sure I would have learned a whole lot more Physics if I’d had, say, Neils Bohr or Albert Einstein than Coach Nichols. Nothing against Coach Nichols, but he was busy with the track team and the tennis team and all the other things a high school teacher does, and he was well known not to like girls in his class, besides dealing with someone who had No Idea what he was mumbling about up there behind his podium…

And yet I know people who were very fond of Coach Nichols – they obviously brought something more to the table than I did, to be able to benefit from his style of teaching. It’s true that there do seem to be teachers who are remembered as great teachers by everyone – and yet, when you look at them closely, what makes them so great? Lots of times, it isn’t even that they know everything in the entire universe on their particular subject…

For example, Dave actually doesn’t seem to care if we’re aligned properly and he doesn’t go for the typical soothing plinkety-plunk yoga music – his choice of music is one of my favorite things. It’s always surprising and I always want to run out and write down the songs on my iphone so I can get them later – I don’t bring MY phone into yoga class! But what does that have to do with being a good teacher? What difference does the music make?

The answer of course is, it doesn’t. In this case, I bring enough of myself to benefit from his teaching – my liking for his music. And he’s lightly humorous and never prods you to do better, which I actually kind of need because I tend to be a little lazy – but there’s something about the relaxation that keeps me showing up to class – and  if I show up, I’m bound to eventually get better.

But the other part is a good teacher has to make YOU want to do better – they can’t be so relaxed that you don’t care either! For all I know, Neils Bohr might have been a terrible teacher for me because even if he knew everything in the whole world, his personality might stress me out or he might put me to sleep…

The third ingredient is, of course, me – the student! What do I bring? Have I slept in the last 24 hours? Have I eaten anything decent? Am I open for business when it comes to knowledge? Do I realize that good teachers come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and ability to transmit knowledge – and can I find a way to tap into that knowledge?

We can learn from anyone – my job is to show up able to connect that knowledge with me and what I’d like to accomplish. To be passionately curious, to be ready for new knowledge in whatever guise it comes in, to never stop wanting to know more – we really teach ourselves, don’t we?

In case you’re interested, the new yoga teacher did fine – her music was kind of ehhhh, but she was really into alignment – I learned some stuff! And I hear Dave’s teaching down in Norman now, so someday he might come back and meanwhile, the new teacher might just be the best teacher yet – except for the next one!

Dave* – not his real name. It’s Doug.

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