I am a student of life.

I love to learn and am not afraid of not knowing. It’s scary at times, but I overcome fear by reminding myself I can learn something new. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. I ask lots of questions. It doesn’t bother me to be the person in the crowd who doesn’t have all the answers. I figure someone has to be the one asking the questions, and if it makes everyone else feel better, I will just go ahead and be that person.

Winners realize this truth:

Everyone starts at the bottom each time he or she learns something new.

I’ve been a student, a middle school teacher, a parent (birth, foster, adoptive, special needs), a runner, a triathlete, a business owner, a leader, a speaker, a wife, a consultant, a certified nursing assistant, a writer. With each role, I started not knowing. I was a student of those who would guide me in the process. Teachers, therapists, coaches, doctors, guides, nurses, publishers, pastors, my children, my husband, and mentors have taught me what I needed to learn.

Spending so much time as learner, I’ve come to see 3 traits that are essential for good teachers of any type. I am writing this with the assumption you as the teacher have the wisdom or correct information to give.

Here are the 3 Critical Traits You Need to Teach Anyone Anything:

  1. Believe He Can. My favorite saying about coaching is, “A good coach believes you can do it before you believe it yourself.” Before I completed my first triathlon, my coaches were continually saying powerful statements like, “You are ready. You WILL finish. You have it in you.” Their words were extremely important to me. As I was in therapy for weight loss, I really did not know if it would be possible for me to overcome my compulsive eating addiction. My therapist assured me over and over that YES, it was possible, YES he had clients who had done it and YES it would happen for me if I kept working on it. I needed those words to keep the hope alive inside of me. There are two important aspects to this trait. First, as the teacher you have to absolutely believe in your heart your student can do it. If you are faking, he will know it. Second, you have to say the words out loud. Over and over. And over. It seems repetitive to you, but to the student who is struggling and fearful, your continual reassurance is a lifeline.
  2. Compassion. Compassion is the the grace and understanding to recognize this could be a difficult process for the person you are guiding. It’s slowing down enough to say, “Maybe working with computers comes naturally to me, but I’m going to have understanding for the fact that my grandma has never used email before.” Compassion cannot be given without respect. Compassion shows we are equal as human beings even though in this particular situation, I have more knowledge about the issue at hand.
  3. Tough Love. When I think back through my years of life, if I were to create a “Best Of…” list of teachers, mentors, and coaches, every single one to make the “Best Of…” list had this trait in common. He or she gave out a hefty doses of tough love when needed. I bet your list would look the same. Teachers who love you will care about you enough to be honest. Tough love is not easy to dish out. Sometimes we think of cruel, blunt teachers and think, “Honesty is easy. I remember plenty of mean teachers!” No, tough love is honesty + compassion and that is different. Tough love is a coach looking you in the eye and saying, “You aren’t working hard enough.” It’s a doctor sitting down with you and saying in a caring way, “If you keep eating this way you are going to die young.” Tough love is a therapist saying, “Your behavior is ruining your life.” It’s a friend or family member saying, “I’m really worried about you, and I think you need to get some help.”

I believe each of these 3 traits is needed in equal measure for the most effective teaching to happen. I’ve been blessed to have some of the most amazing teachers, mentors, and wise people who have spoken truth and taught me throughout my life. They have believed in me, shown me compassion, and been honest enough to lovingly tell me the tough stuff when I needed to hear it. Because they embodied each of these traits, I have been able to achieve and grow in ways I never thought possible.

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What do you believe are the most important traits for teachers to have? Who have been some of your best teachers?

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