Poor quality teaching

Hey, remember those school days? The ones where the thought of learning was as appealing as a Monday morning?

Yeah, we've all been there, wrestling with the fact that our teachers seemed more interested in getting through the day than actually teaching. Content to read out of a book and get out of there. Poorly paid, poorly motivated, and of course, handling a bunch of kids - I get their side. But it is not an excuse - you chose this job.

Technical competency is not the only part of the job. A lot can be done with other aspects of being a good teacher, even if one is not the most skilled in the subject. But this was even more alien to most of my teachers.

Children in a Classroom. In the back of a classroom, are children about 11 years old with a female teacher talking about the subject - If Someone in Your Family Has Cancer. Photographer Michael Anderson
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

The rare times a teacher displayed that was a ray of sunshine.

It made me realise how crucial engaging and effective teaching is. It's not about gobbling down facts, but savouring the thrill of understanding something new.

And hey, college? Well, it was worse. The first 3 and a half years were like watching paint dry on a wall, and the last semester was one of disbelief that I was actually going to be out of there.

Overall, it sucked the entire joy of learning out of me.

I could never stay focused on anything for 5 minutes (a lot more on this later) and with a lack of excitement in the subject, in the teaching, and overall stupidification of learning to "get marks in exams", I found the "amazing education system in our country" a pile of crap.

The joy of learning

When I had good teachers who spent time, which was unfortunately not too often, curiosities were spurred. Learning felt different. I wanted to learn. I didn't need to be told what to read or do. But as I grew older, this died out.

Books were a good teacher but not enough. I needed engagement, which I suspect is the case with a lot of us. We need someone to take an active interest in us, understand us, and tweak things to suit us and challenge us.

Even with the "good" teachers, their method was to tell you to do what worked for them. Which, beyond a point, is not good enough. What worked for them will not work for you.

All of these experiences have been percolating inside of me.

Photo by Jason Ayers / Unsplash

And then, I went to grad school. Where I re-discovered my joy of learning, of opening a box of curiosities and exploring, of engaging with peers and teachers, challenging and being challenged, being completely out of my depth and figuring the way out. Books became a part of my life again - as they were complemented by good learning and an engaging atmosphere.

An opportunity to teach

Why couldn't we have had better teachers? What goes into recreating my grad school experience? Why couldn't I have learned physical education? These are a family of questions that I've wondered about for a long time.

When the opportunity to start The Quad came around, I knew it was me going back to these base questions. Of wanting to be a teacher, of the kind I would've liked.

I have always enjoyed teaching. It was usually to my set of friends who wanted to pass the exam, and not waste too much time learning complex stuff. It closed my learning loop - to read, learn, apply, and then to teach fundamentals.

The only question in my head was whether would I be able to handle the daily interactions with a lot of people. Being an introvert, this was an important question to ponder.

But the fact that The Quad involved teaching, and thus an opportunity to be a good teacher. Coupled with teaching physical fitness - both of which were "things I wish I had in my youth" - made me jump into this.

Closing my learning loop with teaching

Can I be a good teacher and bring change?

It was not a given. But one doesn't become an expert on Day 1. Over the past decade and some, I've made some terrible mistakes. And I've also coached hundreds of people through amazing internal transformations. All by using my annoyance and angst as the driving force.

It has been a wonderful and rewarding experience.

By teaching, my learning has been exponential.

First, in the technical aspects. Figuring out how to work with beginners who have never lifted weights before or engaged in movement. How to progress and regress a training session to suit all types of skill levels? So much more to this than learning to train yourself.

Most of the learning was in connecting with the students. What one communicates is not what is said but what reaches the other person. And what the other person internalises and implements. It didn't matter how technically competent I was how many certifications I had, or if I had improved my communication skills. Unless I figure out the exact way to connect and reach my students, the best training plan in the world is useless. And even an average plan can show amazing outcomes.

Plus, every student teaches you something. It sounds so cliche but doesn't make it any less true. One gripe I have is my lack of note taking in the early years - I wish I had taken a lot more notes as I worked with people. It would've been interesting to see the evolution of my teaching approach that way.

Your turn

What makes a good teacher for you?

Where in your life would you like a good teacher?

In being taught physical fitness, how would you like your experience to be tailored? What would allow you to embrace physical fitness into your life and thrive?

Next up

I think there's quite a bit for me to explore.

  1. As I coach a lot less now, how can I continue to teach and coach?
  2. My transition to being a coach, and then transitioning out of coaching classes as a core part of my day.
  3. My learning difficulties as a kid and learnings from it.