New educators often show insecurity about being a good teacher, especially when training platform artists. This normal stage of development makes some go to great lengths to be liked and to unleash an emotional rollercoaster relationship with the class, which is exhaustive and inappropriate. Poor facilitators are more focused on having people like them, than serving people.
If asked, my response is always the one given to me forty years ago by Leo Passage, "If you love the student, you cannot help but be a great teacher." When Leo first said this, I thought it a great thing to keep in mind, but I never realized the depth of its impact until years later. As time went by, I focused on novelty, materials, competitiveness, and winning, but all these came in second to sincere dedication of getting the message across in tune with the student's willingness to learn. With the passing of time it becomes clear that it is totally not about you, it's about them.
I saw a news clip of a hut in Somalia where a teacher stood in front of barefoot children sitting on a dirt floor while writing something on what appeared to be a clay/mud board. The student's expression was one I recognize when really learning. And there were no bells and whistles, no AV, not even chairs, just wisdom and love for the student. I felt I wanted to be a student in that class.
I've gotten older, and at the end of a long week of teaching, I can feel the effort in my bones. This is often the time an educator reflects on purpose. I recall a winter afterschool night sitting alone in my silent classroom thinking, "Why am I doing this, again?" The answer came to me as this, "I didn't become a teacher, I was born to teach, my certificate is just a ticket to get going. My purpose is much higher than degrees or diplomas, much nobler than passing a test. I don't really have one purpose, I have as many purposes as students—I affect each one in ways I will never know with patience and grace."
With the advent of social media, not a week goes by without hearing from a past student of long ago--thanking me for something I did or said. Some messages I copy and paste because they are so overwhelmingly beautiful to me. Some come from my early teaching years, when I am sure I didn't know what I was doing, and yet, the impact was so positive.
When you enter the classroom leave yourself behind and your presence will be awesome and powerful. You will never feel alone or abused. You are a messenger of light. You are totally building a better world.
Carlos Valenzuela: is a consultant, speaker, stylist, bilingual trainer, and author of iiFabulous Salon Success, an interactive online learning guide for new salon professionals.
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