To Sir, With Love: To Become a Better Teacher, You Must Become a Student

To know something and to teach something are two entirely different things.

To become a better teacher, you must become a student.

It is not what you say but how you say it.

Know the difference between what’s best for you and what’s good for you.

There is no shortcut to learning hard work ethic.

Don’t try to be great. Good is enough.

Don’t make the world worse.

All of these exceptional pieces of advice come from teachers who learn it from other teachers’ teachers, who have learned it from experience. You either learn it through action (teaching a class) or though thoughts (reading a book). No matter how you take in information and upload it as an experience, it means nothing until it is (in this day in age tweeted, status updated, blogged, or) simply shared. As I was randomly reading through an article from the Journal of Teacher Education, I stumbled upon an insightful quote, “Experience alone is not enough. It is the thought and subsequent action associated with the experience which determines its value in the learning process”. In other words, thinking about what you do and how you do it brings value to your experience. Internalizing your thoughts and actions before and after an experience gives it value, meaning, and purpose.

We all know that knowledge is power, we must not forget that this power is forged with Uncle Ben’s advice to the young Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility’’. Successes through experience are not stopping points, they are stepping stones. Experiences, whether good or bad, are always teachers. Experiences are things that you can learn from and take away from; they are selfless like the attitude of our teachers, eternal like the wisdom of our mentors, and self-sacrificing like the understanding of our parents/guardians. In order to achieve conclusions, end results, or milestones, the process of learning from an experience requires transition, movement, and a momentum shift towards the goal. The responsibility of great power is the ability to take knowledge and put it into a format of action: put ideas/thoughts into action! Absorbing knowledge, reflecting, internalizing, and analyzing it, transforming it into a skill or technique, and transferring it to others is the information learning process we must all adopt to become better handlers of information; better teachers andeven better students.

I have taken the above thoughts on experience, teaching, and learning, and have put it into practice. In order to become a better teacher, which I am always in the pursuit of, I have become a student. Starting with small baby steps, I have bought myself a package of dance classes to downtown Toronto’s Street Dance Academy. I took on my first dance class called “Beginner’s break dance”, and can conclude that it was simply an experience.

I put myself into an uncomfortable, humbling, eye-opening, mind-stretching, physically draining, and confidence realizing situation. As the late Randy Pausch from The Last Lecture says, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” I wanted to be the best in the class, but realistically, I wasn’t even close. In my mind, any physical challenge for me is seen as attainable, but this time, time will be the answer. Through this dance class experience, I am growing a deeper awareness and appreciation for the students of my own classes. I am putting myself through the process of learning and reflecting upon my dance class experience by sharing it with others through this blog.

Ongoing, with more classes under my belt with dancing, I will be putting myself through an education of a different kind. One that allows me to grow my own skills and techniques, strategies, abilities to provide options, variety, range of choices, and diversity to my students and the people around me. As a student from the world of academia through The University of Western Ontario, my choice for an elective course is similar to that of my Street Dance Academy classes, but different in overall purpose. I have come to the point in my career where there is more to learning than simply learning for myself. I am learning for a higher purpose. I am learning to help others learn. I am growing myself to help others grow. I hope that one day, I can speak from experience and look back on this blog entry and say, “I have become a better teacher by becoming a student.”