I never saw myself as a teacher.
Growing up I wanted to be an artist, that was the singular vision for my life and it took me on unforgettable adventures. Committing to my art practice and pursuing it as a career for years ultimately lead me down the teachers path.
There was this collective idea that artists who couldn’t make a living selling their work ended up as teachers. This never resonated with me.
My art had always been about connecting, sharing, personal growth and learning how to live in the present. As it turns out, these are the building blocks for becoming a really good teacher.
The first class I taught was to a room full of sugar eating eight-year olds in a low-income school in San Francisco’s Mission District. I had no idea what I was walking into, but like everything else in my life at the time I just showed up to see what would happen. That first year teaching was crazy hard.
Little did I know that ten years later teaching would be a huge passion of mine and something that I would cherish on a daily basis.
My favorite part of those early teaching days was brainstorming projects with the kids. It was amazing to watch their minds work and feel their openness. They would shout out their ideas to each other with so much excitement. They didn’t critique or judge each other, these sessions were all about using their imagination and they ran with it every time. Brainstorming with them was a serious free for all that got us all hyper. I learned so much in those sessions about creativity, not taking myself so seriously and allowing myself to truly dream all of the possibilities.
Over the years, I’ve taught different art and design classes to children and adults. Eventually, I shifted into teaching cooking, self-care and yoga. No matter what or who I teach, what I learned from my first group of students is that teaching is all about being in the moment. When I am fully present to co-creating with a group in real time, everyone benefits.
Teaching is about being vulnerable, taking risks and admitting when you don’t know something.
I was always afraid of teaching because I felt like I had to know more than the students in the class. Today I understand that is so far from the truth. The best teachers don’t know it all, rather they lead from their hearts. This kind of vulnerability is what makes teaching such a thrill and why I look forward to it every day.
Teaching is also about listening, holding space and giving people permission to just be. It’s not a performance, an act, or something that can be faked.
In order to be effective as teachers, we need to listen and create environments where everyone feels respected and valued. Not everyone got that kind of support growing up, and we all know how powerful a good teacher can be in our lives. Think about that teacher you had in high school or college, the one you felt had your back but also challenged you to put your best foot forward.
The more I teach the more confident I become in all areas of my life. Yogi Bajan says if you want to master something, teach it. Sure you might fumble in the beginning, there is always a learning curve.
It’s important to remember, all that’s required is an open heart, a willingness to admit when you don’t know and a genuine desire to help people surpass where you are in life. This is the real humility of teaching – creating teachers that are more effective than you are. Creating a more conscious and engaged community is what makes me excited to teach every day.
What about you? Are you a teacher? Do you aspire to teach? Even if you aren’t a teacher in the traditional sense, you likely play the role of ‘teacher’ somewhere in your life. Today, think about ways you can listen more, be more vulnerable and have a more open heart with your students.
Photo by Ivan T on Flickr