When you are looking to learn tai chi, you want to find a good teacher who can help you understand, enjoy and appreciate tai chi in a way that is meaningful for you. Ji Hong Tai Chi has a philosophy of grooming good teachers not just people who have mastered tai chi in some way. This makes the Ji Hong Tai Chi a great place to learn and grow your qi gong, tai chi and weapons skills.
So, while you might be considering where to learn tai chi, I have been considering what we evaluate when we look for good teachers here at Ji Hong Tai Chi Mississauga.
To Be a Great Tai Chi Teacher, We Must First Master Tai Chi
Firstly, it takes many years of learning and diligent practice before one can achieve the skills and proficiency to be considered a tai chi expert. Even under ideal conditions, where you have the time and ability to train several hours daily under a good tai chi teacher, it will still be 10 years at a minimum. To be a good tai chi teacher, you need at a minimum certain technical proficiencies such as sound knowledge of the forms and underlying tai chi principles plus:
- good observation skills
- attention to the details
- good communication skills
To be a great tai chi teacher, you need more than just the technical skills, you need a set of qualities that are not easy to cultivate. The following are the top 10 qualities that I believe can serve as a guide to becoming a great tai chi teacher.
1. A Passion for Teaching Tai Chi
Passion manifests itself in many ways. Passionate teachers wake up looking forward to a day with the opportunity to work with students so the students can gain a passion for tai chi as well. Some teachers will walk into the room with a spring in their steps while others show it quietly with earnest dedication. This passion is something that cannot be faked nor hidden and students can feel it.
2. A Love for Tai Chi
Great teachers not only love Tai Chi, but they love to share that joy with their students. You cannot escape the enthusiasm and joy that exudes from a great teacher when they discuss and share their favourite subject. You can see the glint in their eyes, hear the excitement in their voices and watch the enjoyment in their face and entire demeanour.
3. Vested in the Personal Growth of Students
An expert can talk for hours about a subject. A great teacher will always talk about the students and the joy of seeing students grasp and understand a subject. For a tai chi teacher, joy comes in the form of seeing a student execute a move, understand something or achieve something that was unattainable just moments ago. What feeds the soul of a great teacher comes from seeing students who have been working hard for weeks or months and suddenly have a break through where they realize that they have got it finally. And, once someone knows, it is not possible to not know any longer. This look on their face is priceless. This is the personal growth that every great teacher wishes for their students.
Great teachers are patient with their students, they will repeat the move or explanation as many times as necessary for students to learn. They do it with a smile every time. They allow mistakes without judging. They wait for the right moment to say the right thing. Teachers gently correct and encourage while patiently waiting for students to reach their own potential in their own time.
5. Personal Self-Reflection
Like many professionals, great teachers work to improve their skills as teachers. They study and continually upgrade their skills in the art of teaching. And, they regularly reflect upon their own performance throughout the day or daily so they keep learning as teachers as well as tai chi martial artists.
When something good or bad happens, teachers want to spend time reflecting on it. If things went well, we ask ourselves questions such as whether it was something that a student did or something that we as teachers facilitated. If things went poorly, we focus on what we did or did not do and what we would do in a similar situation the next time. We are constructively critical of ourselves and learn from any mistakes we may make along the way.
6. Learning is a Two Way Street
A great teacher learns from the students as much as the students learn from the teacher. Great teachers are not threatened by questions from students and do not take it personally when challenged on a topic. We aim to listen carefully without jumping to conclusions. Questions help us as teachers to increase our depth of knowledge about tai chi and wisdom about the process. We all improve as teachers as much as students.
7. Teachers are Humble
A great teacher will not let ego get in the way. When we put the focus on the students instead of ourselves, then we are performing our role well. Students use the mirror to see if they are doing things well and whether they are modeling the movements correctly. When leading a class, the great teacher uses the mirror to see if the students are able to keep up with the pace of the lesson.
8. Being Flexible
Things do not always go as planned during a lesson. A great teacher must be flexible enough to change the lesson plan when things are not working out for the students. We are constantly assessing the class to make sure that every student is able to understand what to do and be able to learn the lesson well.
A great teacher can conjure up new ways to present the same topic from new perspectives. This helps students grasp the lesson from a more relatable point of view for them. Great teachers understand their students and they will adjust to the learning style of the students present in the studio during each hour.
Professionalism shows in our personal presentation, timeliness, preparedness for the classes, and the way we interact with students, peers and our own teachers. Beyond the classroom, we may need to look after other aspects of maintaining a healthy learning environment. We may need to look after problems that might impact the class or a student’s health and well-being. Regardless, we are able to maintain our poise through difficult situations and react in an appropriate manner.
There is always room for improvement. No matter how good we think we are, we can still be better. Improvements can come in many ways:
- Advancing our tai chi skills – as our skill level increases, we may see things from a different perspective and that allows us to explain concepts with greater clarity.
- Expanding our knowledge – a wider or deeper knowledge base helps relate tai chi concepts with other concepts and knowledge with which students can relate.
- Upgrading our teaching techniques – continuously exploring different ways to teach the same topic is key to improving our success as teachers.
If You Enjoy Tai Chi and Might Enjoy Teaching Tai Chi, Take the First Step
If you enjoy tai chi, continue your learning path to becoming a tai chi instructor. Start practicing these 10 qualities of being a great teacher. As a studio which looks for great tai chi masters who are also great teachers, we will start to take notice of the people who have the passion as well as the talent to make this long journey with us. We are always in search for good people and good company on this journey to improving our tai chi and becoming great teachers.