It seems that more than ever, we have incredible tension between taking time for ourselves – to be quiet and to connect inwardly and to contemplate – and to be out in the world with others, staying busy and doing things.
In our personal growth, we need time alone and with ourselves, and time with others in places where we can grow.
That’s why workshops, trainings, and intensive group experiences are so important. At their best, these spaces give us opportunities to be seen and vulnerable with others, to see ourselves in others, and to create something bigger in a group than we can create alone. There is so much power in what a group can generate, and while group experiences are not for everyone, they can give us opportunities to transform in ways we might not find alone.
We seek community, a place with others with shared values. We seek spaces where we can know ourselves differently because if we are stuck in our own myopic world, there will be limitations.
We need good teachers.
I have been so blessed to have incredible teachers for my entire life. (There were some flops, too.) I am grateful for the many skilled facilitators and teachers who have taken me on journeys and through deeply powerful experiences that forever changed me.
If you know what I’m talking about, what made your teachers special? What about them and their approach allowed you to break through and become a better version of yourself?
We have to choose our teachers carefully. Some are highly charismatic, yet lack some of the essential qualities that will make for a meaningful and secure teacher-student exchange.
I believe there are some key elements we need in any guide or teacher so we can have profound learning in the groups we decide to trust with our tender parts. Maybe you can think of more to add—I’ll share the ones I think are crucial.
Essential Teacher Qualities
Teachers have to be honest and treat students and participants with respect.
Using their position to hold power over someone or to betray a person’s trust in them is never okay. Using their authority or influence to convince a student to have sex with them is never okay. (This should go without saying, but on a regular basis, I hear stories of teachers abusing their power.)
Integrity also means knowing when to be fully honest and what not to say, because sometimes people are not ready to hear it all.
Brutal honesty is not the goal. Being able to discern when to share and what to share is important. Having integrity also means being able to admit when you are wrong and that you don’t have all the answers. No teacher does and it’s more respectable when they can acknowledge that.
Teachers are open to things they may not have thought of, to new ways of doing things or thinking about things and to different kinds of people. A rigid teacher will create a rigid learning environment and that only goes so far. In sexuality, of course openness is crucial because we hear everything under the sun in people’s experiences.
Teachers need to have done their own work. We are never done, of course, but if a teacher thinks they have nothing to learn, they are stuck and can only lead people so far. Teachers need not just knowledge in terms of facts and ideas, but true wisdom from life experience and personal growth.
Good teachers can see in more ways than one; they can perceive and hold multiple perspectives with their students. There are always more ways to look at something, and continuing to look differently keeps teaching fresh.
Meet people where they are
You have to be able to meet your students where they are and work with them from there—not where you think they should be or could be, or where you wish they were, but where they actually are. It requires a large amount of receptivity to discern that and do it effectively.
Skills to facilitate and deepen the learning
You have to know how to teach. Teaching itself is a skill—a powerful one. People do not start teaching and become magically wonderful at it. Sure, many have an aptitude for it. But good teachers train at it, they study it and they learn why teaching methods work or do not work so they can be effective in all they bring. So many people drop the ball here and fail to learn the actual skills of teaching. Required!
Sometimes people need something different than you anticipated. The people aren’t where you thought they would be—or who you thought they were. Things change; we are human, after all. Being able to be flexible and to shift approaches to meet the needs of your students is critical.
Open to feedback
It’s unfortunate when teachers who are there to help others cannot accept feedback that would make them better teachers, yet it’s surprisingly common. Do you want to be your best? Do you want to rise to the highest level of your being and ability to offer others something valuable? How do you show that? How do you respond when others disagree with you or have a different take on something?
I believe that as teachers who very much want to help people grow, it must be our first and foremost priority to continue to grow every opportunity we get. When we avoid those opportunities, we just make ourselves and our impact smaller. It’s not an easy path to choose. That’s not to say we won’t have off days where it’s difficult to take the higher/biggest growth road–we will. So be gentle with yourself when you have those days and stay focused on the fact that your mission on this planet revolves around growth! Teaching is serious business.