In my Aikido career there have been two quantum leaps in my skill level. Both were noted after the fact. The first was my term as uchi deshi. I lived in the dojo for two years and eight months, training on averages 10 times a week. During the middle year that was ramped up to 12 times a week, which resulted in my training every day. It was an intense growth period, but for the most part unnoticed as my nose was too close to the grind stone. It was only after I had been out of the dojo for a month that I realized the amazing amount I had learned and internalized.
The second leap came as a result of beginning to teach regularly. After I was awarded my shodan (first degree black belt) I was given two morning classes to teach. Over time that went up to three, and then back to two and is now at teaching two morning adult classes as well teaching/running the kid’s weekly afternoon class. After about a month of teaching I noticed something: The skills, tips and tricks which I had internalized and began to take for granted had to be brought out in order to show them to others which made me realize that they were not quite as sharp as they could be in my own execution (some of them were not really close to being on the mark.) The process of teaching someone else a skill you have integrated forces you to re-examine that very skill set. It’s like re-learning all the fundamentals again. If they aren’t clear and precise in your own head then they won’t be clear and precise in someone else’s and the the best way to learn is when things are clear and precise.
As a result of having to match my walk to my talk as a teacher my Aikido improved by a distinct leap. It became clear to me that in teaching I learn far more than the students I am working with. I have noted the same thing in teaching blogging, atma vichara, the Integral Model, meditation, customer service, and driving. Every time I teach someone else something, even casually, I get more out of it than they do.
I noted recently that on the flip side, when being a student, I experience feelings of guilt for taking up the teacher’s time. When I held that up to the experience of being a teacher I realized how inaccurate that sentiment is. being a student is a great gift. Now when I am being taught something I do so with respect and an attitude of giving. I give my attention fully without being pulled away into feelings of guilt prodding me to spout, “Yeah, I get it” before I do just to spare the other person some time. I honor the teaching both as a gift to me and a gift to the teacher. I find it a much more effective place to learn from.
Teaching and learning are both great gifts to give and receive. That’s my experience at least. What positive experiences have made an impact on you as teacher/student?