Great Teachers are Hesitant to Teach
Posted by Dean Holden at December 10th, 2014
by Kapil Gupta, MD, 30 January 2014
Great teachers are better observers than they are teachers. Teaching is, in some ways, a myth. The greatest skill is learned, more than it is taught. And the great teacher realizes this.
The great teacher introduces the student to a concept and allows him to make acquaintance with it. He leads him into the room and allows him to have a look around. Given the appropriate freedom, the student ambles through the room, visiting the corners and the layout. His brain develops a feel for the boundaries of the room and how to move within it without bumping into walls. With time, the student learns to live within the room and breathe its unique fragrance. Eventually, the room becomes home.
This is the way in which skill is developed.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of the instruction that prevails across the world consists of leading the student by the hand. Pulling him into the room. Taking him to each part of the room and defining its characteristics. Showing him how to walk within the room. Demonstrating for him the length of the stride and the speed of the walk. The student is instructed to memorize the information and repeat it for the teacher.
There is a huge problem with this approach. In memorizing the information, the student’s attention is on the information, rather than its relevance. His focus is on the form, rather than its place within the movement. In memorizing, he ceases to learn. In following, he loses his way.
The great teacher searches not for the perfect time to teach, but for the perfect time to retreat. Every now and again, he will reappear, not so much to instruct, but to enhance the student’s understanding. For he realizes that the student’s progress, or lack thereof, does not so much depend upon his mastery of the motion, but on the mastery of his understanding of the concept behind the motion. As the student’s understanding is refined, his motion progresses.
The great teacher is, therefore, a third wheel, so to speak. If he fears anything, it is saying too much. If he detests anything, it is standing in the way between the student and the concept.
The great teacher understands that it is only once the student makes something his very own, will he attain mastery of it. In making it his own, he transcends instruction. His skill becomes an inseparable part of him.
Learning begins when teaching stops.
The great teacher realizes this.
If only we had more of them in the world.