When I started out teaching I was a teenager. It was terribly intimidating.
How on earth do you know how to teach when you are in a phase of learning and understanding where you don’t even quite understand the learning process yourself?
Think about it. When you’re a kid, everything is learning, because you’re accumulating life experiences so that you can eventually learn from what you have learned to start learning about yourself. Aside from the usual superficial stuff, usually influenced by friends and pop culture, what do we really know as teenagers? Our hormones are insane, we look funny, we smell funny, we act funny and not because any of it is actually funny, it’s actually kinda miserable at times and you’re not only dealing with your own development, you are dealing with learning to deal with how the world reacts to you and around you.
I look back on my years of teaching and it wasn’t easy, but was the process more complicated for me, or was there a greater generosity, trust and belief from my father to allow me to possibly “undo” all of his years of hard work by trusting me to teach his students, in his his school, which he and my mother worked so hard to build? Actually, are my parents absolutely NUTS for ever allowing me to use their hard work as my learning ground? I was not good at teaching for a LONG time and I know students sometimes really disliked having this baby faced daughter of their Grandmaster telling them what to do. I’m actually grateful for those difficult people, they posed a challenge and theirs something about my DNA and our thirst for challenge.
In many moments of my younger years, I had thought of teaching dad’s classes as a type of punishment. It was a bit more complex than just feeling as though I was being punished actually. I was insecure, I didn’t know what I was really doing myself and I was intimidated. I’m not my dad. I am nowhere near anything close to what a magnificent human being he is and I don’t want to be, he is my father and he is Master Chen, I value this, I respect this, I honor this and love knowing that I have a father who so much more incredible than I could ever hope to achieve being. My father is No.1 and I don’t ever want to try to be better than him, because it makes me happy knowing that I am so lucky to have a father that is better than almost everyone and anyone I could ever hope to meet.
People are always asking me how dad taught me how to teach. Which is quite flattering, because they must see the similarities and they want to learn how dad taught me my teaching skills. Dad and I have never had one single conversation about how he wants me to teach, NEVER. Not once. I don’t think I’ve even ever thought of asking him how to teach. I don’t think the thought ever even occurred to me. You know what I do, do? I ask him questions all the time, much of the time in class, when he’s teaching. If I don’t understand something, I say it immediately and I am fascinated at how he answers me, while answering each and every single person with inquisitive eyes in the classroom. There’s a specific kind of empathy when it come to teaching and I’ve observed this my whole entire life and when I do ask questions or interject during dad’s classes it’s not only because I have the question, I can feel that shift of the mind(s) in the classroom where I speak up, not just for me, but for the other students who are too respectful to speak up for themselves. Then dad and I do have this interesting dynamic where I am his translator. He’s so advanced that people book me to explain what he has taught them and then in group classes, sometimes dad sees that some students can’t quite absorb what he said his way, so he turns to me and says “can you explain what I just said” and it’s funny, I always feel the essence for what he means to says, even before he even says much sometimes and lately I’ve also noticed that I steal ideas from him and he borrows a few things from me.
Here’s a tip for people who train with us, ask the questions. We like it. It helps us learn. It helps us teach. It helps you. It helps your classmates. It really does just help. It is not disrespectful and it’s fun when students feel the comfort to stay engaged.
The classroom should be free of egos, narcissism and vanity.
Is there anything more fun than learning and learning how to learn? I have so much fun knowing what I don’t know, so that when I do learn about what I do know I can’t stop wanting to talk about it to understand what I understand better from the perception of as many other minds as I can manage to get my hands on. Curiosity is such a uniquely nourishing space to thrive in.
Curiosity, the word alone makes me grin. It’s fun to be curious, but do not confuse this with being nosey. Nosey is putting your energy into something that is none of your business, it’s sneaky, manipulative and vulgar. Curiosity is about discovering the unknown of what you encounter. It’s your life, meeting you and you meeting your life.
At the school, everyone is curious. It’s in the air and in the eyes of everyone there. I love seeing the look in peoples eyes when dad teaches and I realized it is because he speaks to everyone’s curiosities because he speaks from his own place of constant, curious wonder. He does not make anything up, he always speaks from the heart and from the innocence of curious discovery.
We are all curious, but we need to be in an environment we trust. Exploration takes trust. Learning takes trust. If you aren’t teaching from an honest place of your own curious wonder, you aren’t going to reach the place within your students that speaks to their curious wonder.
Teaching isn’t about telling people what you think you know. In truth, what do we really know, life is about perception and we all perceive differently. It isn’t about you, the teacher, at all. Teaching is everything about how you speak to the feeling of thinking minds. It’s about how you awaken the minds of other’s to listen to what it is you feel, in a way the resonates with the students who dedicate their time to you.
More important than the content of what you think is important to share, you need to make people feel you. You need to connect with everyone. You need to be comfortable in your surroundings. You need to be comfortable with you.
You need to listen with your eyes and watch with your ears.
I watch assistant teachers who teach at different levels of their development and while many are good at one on one dynamics, the group dynamic is where they falter a bit. I see them loose people’s attention because they don’t do subtle things like make eye contact with everyone while they speak to the class and then there’s the classic mistake I have made myself, which is trying to regurgitate what dad says, his way. Trying to be someone else, never works for anyone and Energy Never lies, when students can’t connect, because you aren’t connected within your own self enough teach from your own “place” they don’t connect and then they don’t come back.
Nobody has the answers for everything. Even dad sometimes says, “I have to think about that, I don’t have the answer right now”. It’s perfectly fine to tell your students you don’t have the answer, its honest. People appreciate and respect honesty.
Most importantly, I want to stress that, without your students, you wouldn’t be their teacher. Remember this when you are trying to figure out how to structure your class dynamic.
People like to be in environments that stimulate their ability to think. The greatest gift a teacher gives to a student is the belief in their own own abilities, ideas and skills.
Speak to people’s feelings and you capture the infinite hunger of their minds forever.