You need experience to be a good teacher. I’m not saying that it takes decades to get that experience but it does take some time and application. People often argue this need… actually people without experience often argue this need. They usually stop arguing it after acquiring experience. Especially when that experience is acquired the hard way.
The real problem is that only experience really teaches you how valuable your experience is. Before you have it it’s hard to imagine what it gives you. Unfortunately it is often only when people have the experience of coming undone and learning the hard way that they realize that actually experience does inform our actions at all levels, especially when passing on knowledge to others.
It teaches us what was crucial and what was not. It allows us to recognize and head off developing problems that are otherwise noticed too late.
Experience allows us to make judgements that are based not just on book learned facts. It develops our ability to balance many factors though practice. Inexperience and overconfidence can lead to the attitude that all this crap that experienced people are coming out with is just unreasonable. They’re only saying that because… (insert today’s justification here). It’s unfair to try to stop them, who are manifestly an exception to the normal process of learning and maturity!
It’s a problem I have with some kinds of peer workshop teaching. The guy who learned something yesterday is teaching it today. Weirdly people don’t seem to think that this could lead to problems. I think that peer learning can be great when people already have very good basics and are therefore able to recognize problems for themselves. When beginners are teaching beginners however mistakes get overlooked. They may pass on mistakes that they are not even aware that they are making. This is because the peer review is by other beginners generally someone knowing even less.
First learnings in bondage are crucial. They are the foundations upon which every subsequent bondage is built. Time and again you see things structured where the least experienced person teaches ‘basics’ the next ‘intermediate’ the most experienced person is labelled as ‘advanced’. Unfortunately this leads to the least able teacher creating another crop of less able students, who become the next intermediates for the next beginners to ape.
For anyone to teach well they need the faculty to be self critical, realistic and to realistically judge their skill level. A person with little experience is most likely the least suited person to make such judgements. And yet they do and decide that yes, they’re just fine to teach.
Even in the case of basic teaching. The thought that it’s OK that a teacher should not have a reasonable amount of experience is a disturbing one.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the apparent assumption that standards that apply to the rest of the world do not apply to kink education. A newly qualified driver for instance is not allowed to supervise a learner driver until they have a minimum of 3 years driving experience as a qualified driver. Why should that be do you think?
Insurance companies give better insurance quotes to people of proven experience than to newly qualified people in every profession. Believe it or not there is a real, quantifiable and demonstrable reason for that. Insurance companies do not decide such things to ‘be mean’ to the newly qualified and inexperienced. They do it because the inexperienced make more mistakes.
Yes, people have to learn and acquire experience. I feel very strongly however that they should not acquire that experience while ‘teaching’.
Look at it this way. Last week you learned to play chopsticks. So this week obviously you can be a piano teacher right? Would you come to you for piano lessons or would you think that just maybe you should go to someone who can really play the piano, who has a bit more experience than a couple of basic lessons? Do you think that someone who’d only had a couple of basic piano lessons would even think of setting themselves up as a piano teacher? If not, why does this not apply to teaching bondage? Serious real question. Not a rhetorical flourish, I’m actually asking. Why does anyone think that the standards applied to the teaching of practically anything else do not apply to bondage?
Sometimes people tend to want to believe that there are exceptions to this reality, because if there are exceptions then they can be one of those exceptions. They must be because after all they cannot see from their perspective why they should not be immediately teaching.
This comes back to the ability to be self critical and reasonable. You know the ability you develop with time, perspective, experience. But hey I sometimes hear. I taught a class and I got great feedback! OK, let’s inject a ‘but’ here and it’s a bit of a big ‘but’. But the feedback was from beginners. i.e. people without experience. People not in a position to judge what you are telling them against anything else. People without the experience (there’s that word again) to be able to tell if what you tell them is right.
The example of some of the best practitioners and teachers is very clear. Naka Akira himself only last year was still hesitant to teach. This hesitation was born of humility and serious self examination. Many of the very best teachers wonder seriously if they should be teaching and subject themselves to great introspection before teaching. Many of the worst suffer no such doubts.
Of those good teachers many only started teaching because they were asked. Of the worst most decided for themselves that they were the right people to teach. Being a good teacher isn’t just about what you know! It’s also about how you deliver it. It’s about what’s appropriate to teach. It’s about judging what others need to know. If you yourself have a low level of knowledge how can you judge what it is that others need. How can you judge that what you have to teach is appropriate? It’s about balancing many factors. It’s about being able to recognize the beginnings of mistakes in others and heading them off. It’s about self awareness and knowing your own limitations. It’s putting your ego aside to do the right thing by those that are trusting you to teach them.
Teaching is a serious responsibility. Entering into teaching without serious consideration, work and application can endanger and mislead those you teach, their partners and those they might in turn pass information to.
After publishing this I was kindly pointed to… The Dunning–Kruger effect which you may also enjoy reading.