I’ve been threatening to write this piece for months and I’m finally taking a moment to sit down and do it. After FireDrums and talking to a lot of my students I got really clear that this article might be useful for some folks who assume that because someone is a skilled technician with their tools, they can also teach.
For years we have made jokes with students about teaching saying that if someone shows you a move and says, “All you do is this…” they are not really teaching you anything. They are showing you something. Now I grant you, for highly visual learners, as well as intuitive learners or systems engineers or just really geeky flow peeps, this technique will garner some success. As a matter of fact, I would guess that most of the self taught individuals out there who have a vast repertoire are really people who are coming from the place of being able to look at something and break it down in their head, even if they don’t consciously know they are doing this. This skill, called modeling, is something we all learn from a young age and we have been doing it all our lives. Some people just really are good at modeling. These people, however, are the ones who are most able to learn on their own.
In contrast, there are a lot of students/artists/practitioners out there who are not adept with this ability. And for those people, someone showing them a move and saying, “All you do is this…” isn’t really going to give them the steps necessary to learn a move. A classic example: the behind the back weave. I mean, all you do is do the same thing you did in front of your body behind your body still working with the same basic cross over and the same basic side planes. Yet, if it were that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it right after you explain it? Or at least understand it?
The answer? Because all of our minds work differently.
As someone who has spent the better part of my time learning how to work with all styles of learners since I started the Temple in 2002, I have made a study of different techniques that work with different types of students. Someone having the ability to stand there and have the skill and technique necessary to do a move does not mean they also have the ability to teach the move to other people because teaching and technique are different things completely.
For one thing, some students prefer to see the move and other students prefer to feel the move while still others prefer to hear the rhythm of the move. And even as we each may have a preference, it is also true that we all use each of our senses to some degree to learn.
Essentially, a technician is someone who can perform the move. A good coach can speak to all your senses and actually break down the move in a way you can comprehend. A great coach can speak to each student in the way they can understand it best and does not require the student to meet the teacher where they are at because a great coach meets the student where the student is at.
An amazing coach can do all of this and even teach things they have not mastered themselves — even Tiger Woods has a coach and he’s ranked number one in the world. His 2003 coach Butch Harmon, isn’t a well known golfer. So if he’s not a good golfer, who is he? “In 2003 Harmon was ranked the top golf teacher in the United States in a poll of his peers organized by Golf Digest magazine, and has repeated as winner of this honour each year since.”
Originally published in October, 2009
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