Why the hell do I spend the effort teaching? What do I hope my students will gain from it and what what do I gain from helping them to learn?
Why do I spend the effort teaching?
There are several reasons I suppose.
1) I like people who are skilled and the confidence with which they can approach the world.
2) I like to share the experience of dance with someone who can understand music similarly to me. After all, every class any teacher teaches on the subject of social dance for example, is how to dance with that particular teacher or teaching couple.
3) I like to see the inspiration in the student’s eyes as they realize they can do something that they couldn’t do before. This is a big one.
What is it that my students are actually gaining from learning? Well knowledge, for one thing. Knowledge of a particular art. This knowledge gained from disciplined practice for a long time is called Kung Fu in chinese. Kung Fu isn’t necessarily anything to do with martial arts, though the most common way people think of the idea is a martial arts master.
One of my favorite philosophers and Kung Fu practitioners Bruce Lee said that “all knowledge is ultimately self-knowledge.” If I follow that line of thinking, what we do when we teach, is to teach our students about themselves by taking them along the path of discipline we’ve used to discover who we are.
As the student learns or doesn’t, we gain further insight into who we are and so, achieve greater self-knowledge as teachers.
There is never a teacher who is not first a student, nor a student who is not a teacher. The best teaching relationships are those with greatest discipline, though not necessarily those that are most serious or those that push the hardest.
The best teaching unlocks the potential of student and teacher and helps to discover and grow the joy of the art (no matter the specifics of the art) in both. This means that the best students and teachers are combinations that are made based on the personalities of each as well as the art in question.
If you are teaching something like medicine or hang gliding, where lives may be lost, perhaps a more serious approach is warranted. If you are teaching something that is difficult, but not life-threatening or inherently risky, perhaps a lighter touch can be used.
There are different ways to achieve the same end, and as with raising children, no approach works perfectly with everyone.