Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thank Your Teachers

It's The Least You Can Do...

If you are good at anything, or know how to do anything well enough to really enjoy it, chances are you had a teacher or teachers who helped you learn. If you are happy with what you know and are putting it to good use, please remember the people who taught you when you didn't know anything. Do your teachers a favor and thank them.

Thank them in private, but also thank them publicly. Thank them in private, because it is one of the nicer rewards teachers get and it will usually mean a lot to them. And thank them publicly, not so they can share in your glory, if teachers cared about glory they wouldn't be teachers, thank them publicly to help them get more students and therefore more money.They may do it for love, but they need money in order to do it for love.

So acknowledge them and steer students their way by singing their praises. And do it wholeheartedly. Halting or faint praise is worse than saying nothing. Say it clearly, often and regularly. On line, in person, on the mike.

Here's an example:

If you're interested in Internal Martial Arts, T'ai-Chi, Chi Kung, BaGua, and Hsing-I and you're anywhere near Seattle, WA, check out Andy Dale's club. Even if you can't formally study with Andy, even if you can just observe a class, it is worth it just to watch him move. He was my main teacher for 13 years and gave me my fundamental education in T'ai-Chi Chuan. I will never be able to repay my debt to him. He is an incredible artist and a generous, patient and extremely knowledgable teacher. Check him out!

See? It's actually pretty easy. You'd be amazed how rarely it happens in life. Sometimes students are in some kind of subtle or not so subtle competition with their teachers. Sometimes they are so preoccupied with their own personal dramas that they forget they even had teachers. Or they assume that teachers just know that their students appreciate them. So don't forget to thank the teachers who made a difference for you and don't forget to do it publicly. Let go of whatever push-pull you have going on with them and just do it.

OK, now, having said that, I would say this too. Do it if it feels right. Don't force it. Find a place of genuine gratitude and express that. You're teachers will be grateful and I bet you'll feel better too.


  1. Gene, thanks so much for being such a great tai chi teacher. You have a real talent for explaining the details of moves, and especially in giving metaphors that really help.

    And fortunately you teach an excellent tai chi system.

  2. You're most welcome John! It's been a real pleasure working with you, getting to know you and practicing together. GB

  3. Today I saw my mythology teacher from high school 8 years ago and thanked her for such an influence her class was on the choices I made in my life. It felt good.

  4. @Bryan I bet it felt good for her as well.

    When people have thanked me, sometimes totally out of the blue, for something I said or taught them many years previously that made a positive difference for them, it always touches me on a deeper level than the thank you's I receive for current teaching. (Though those present teaching thank you's are very nice too!)

    I think most teachers would like to be remembered a little while and in this era of shorter and shorter attention spans and memories, it's extra nice when I find out that something I said or taught actually stuck somewhere and made a lasting impression and a positive difference over time.

    I'm sure each of has been a part of many turning points for others that we don't know about and may never know about. Lord knows there are people and even specific conversations that had a huge impact on my life but I can't even remember the person's last name anymore. We must all have all kinds of undelivered thank you's that might really warm someone's heart out there. We have good news for other people in our hearts. I'm hoping more of that good news gets delivered so I'm doing what I can.

    I'm in the process right now of tracking down one of my teachers to thank her for what she taught me. I hope she's still alive and findable.

    And of course I also try to thank my teachers publicly whenever I can because it might help them to get more students, which is what every true teacher likes most, people who want to learn what they have to teach.