More reflections from my Tai Chi workshop in Olive Branch, Mississippi:
“Anyone who teaches may never cease to learn,” Dr. Paul Lam said in the midst of the week. At that time, I was loving being a student, soaking in the knowledge and experience the teachers were sharing. My major responsibility was to be attentive, to be an eager student. Not a teacher.
Learning new things has and continues to be very appealing to me. The old adage that the more you know, the more you know what you don’t know rings truer every year. And, in this workshop I wanted new insights about the principles of Tai Chi and I wanted to learn a new Yang style form, the 24, which I’ve wanted to learn for a number of years. I wasn’t focused on being a teacher in that moment, but Dr. Lam’s comment caused me to stop and think. Many of us are teachers and have the honor of teaching Tai Chi, acknowledging great respect for the masters who shared their wisdom over the centuries in their families, and more recently outside of their families to the general public.
I love learning, and as a teacher, greatly enjoy learning from my students. I can honestly say that I learn something new in every class I teach. I gain insights on students’ learning, interpreting words, watching movements, all in different ways. Preparing for a class, for a private session, for a demonstration, for a workshop, requires thinking, researching, talking with other teachers — learning from a variety of sources. And the best is to watch students, listen to their questions and comments during class and sometimes before/after a class. The student’s brain cells, the body’s reaction are in motion, along with the teacher’s.
It occurs to me that students can be great teachers for the teacher and in some respects we are all teachers, even if it’s not an official title. Mothers, fathers, and other family members are teachers; children teach their parents and guardians; office managers teach us; friends teach us.
The key, I think, to be a good teacher is to have an open mind, an attitude of compassion and learning. Teachers may have experience, knowledge and skills to impart, but it’s not a one-way street. The students in our classes, in our homes, on the basketball court, in the retirement homes all have something to teach us. Let us be willing to consider many who intersect in our lives as teachers and “never cease to learn.”