Teaching and Learning

As an addendum to the past few posts, a moment of strange synchronicity, I discovered that my high school wrestling coach works at the St. Julian winery branch in Parma, Michigan, just down the road from where I grew up.

I just returned from my last (for the moment) session teaching Tai Chi in Holland. Master Lee is due back in town tomorrow from his vacation in Vietnam, so I assume he will be resuming his teaching role. I enjoyed teaching out there. For the past four weeks I have had my own class; I have discovered what it is to be A Teacher. I am an assistant instructor in the classes here in Grand Rapids, but being assistant means there is someone above me who is watching as I teach. Out in Holland this past month I have been on my own. Any mistakes I have made will be painfully obvious in a week.

And it was great!

There is something to be said for taking a group of students and guiding them toward a particular ability, a particular understanding. A local college professor told me, when we were discussing the pros and cons of university professorship, that teaching can be addicting. It took a break in my instructor schedule, a group of new faces for the first time in five years, for me to understand what she meant. Teaching is as much an art as is sculpture or music or poetry. We take this great bundle of notions and instincts and reflexes, and tune it to a particular understanding. Then we step away and see if our instruction was sufficient to lead the student down the same path we explored those many years ago. If there are mis-steps or rough edges, we smooth them, redirect them, refine the recipients until they are ready to take on students of their own. No two students are alike. That is where the art comes in.