Master Teacher: Are You Giving Students Your Best?

“Master” is a term frequently used in the martial arts. While no one talks about a master accountant, master salesman, or master nurse, it is common to refer to a teacher of karate, kung fu, or BJJ, as a “master”.

But master of what exactly?

Mastery implies the ability to demonstrate basic and advanced techniques at a high level. But showing off a set of skills only represents one’s capability as a student, not as a teacher.

FACT: Teaching is its own art. It demands just as much study and practice as the subject being taught.

Sadly, many teachers don’t appreciate this and presume it’s enough to simply be great at what they do. Which is why, in every field of study, you meet talented, highly skilled people who are lousy teachers.

Don’t let that happen to you!

What does it take to be a master teacher? The first requirement is to understand that a teacher can not give a student knowledge…a teacher can only guide a student towards knowledge.

Knowledge is the result of experience. Hearing a teacher talk about a skill, or watching a teacher perform a skill, is worthless until the skill is practiced by the student. A master teacher knows this and designs opportunities for a student to accrue experiences.

Not just any experiences, but specific experiences the teacher knows will offer knowledge that the student doesn’t even know he needs.

Sometimes, the ego of a teacher can spoil this process. The teacher wants credit. The teacher wants to say, “I taught you that.” The teacher wants you to think you’re learning from him or her instead of from your own experience. But not a master teacher.

A master teacher is content to let you believe you discovered something for yourself. Even when they purposely led you to it.

For example, you may tell a student to keep their hands up to avoid being punched in the face. But you can also tell a student, “I’m going to throw some punches at your head. Don’t let me hit you.”

The student will quickly “discover” that keeping their hands up is a good idea. And because they discovered it on their own, they will never forget it.

The second requirement of a master teacher is to validate and support a student’s experience. A student will be excited when they make a “discovery” and will want to confirm that it is true.

It’s human nature—when what we learn matches what others have learned, our confidence grows. That’s why a master teacher will be there to say, “Yes, you are on the right track. Keep going.” A lousy teacher will ruin the moment by pointing out what the student is still doing wrong.

FACT: Any idiot can point out what someone is doing wrong. You don’t need to be a master teacher to spot imperfection.

A master teacher is someone who can always see what a student is doing right. A master teacher finds the smallest seed of competence and inspires it to grow.

Through the careful sequencing of drills and lessons, a true master leads students from one discovery to another, allowing them to find and fix their own imperfections along the way.

In short, a master teacher knows experience is the greatest teacher and is willing to step aside to let it do its work.

In doing so, students will have two teachers in every class, instead of just one.