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Nine faults a master or teacher must avoid

Practicing when no-one is watching is a sure sign of sincerity.
Practicing when no-one is watching is a sure sign of sincerity.
Photo by Andrew Wong/Getty Images

Being a master or teacher should be one of the most respected and appreciated positions in society, to a lesser extent coaching as well. Since people in these positions have close personal contact with people from various levels of society and from various age groups, there is an enormous potential to have either a positive or negative impact on society.

There is famous Taoist saying that when the “student is ready the teacher will appear, and when the teacher is ready to teach and lead the student(s) will appear.” How many people, however, have been harmed emotionally, physically or psychologically by bad teachers, whether it be school, work, political, martial, medical or even spiritual and religious.

What guidelines should we use to determine if a teacher is ethically, morally and legitimately qualified to do the work they are doing? How much effort do you really put into researching and observing the traits and qualities of your potential teacher, advisor, doctor, politician etc...?

These traits should be viewed honestly and if the person in question is in violation of them then you really should take action and leave the situation immediately.

  1. A true teacher should never exploit their student(s) for any purpose, especially not for selfish reasons; material gain or social recognition etc...
  2. Any sexual contact between the student and teacher should be strictly forbidden.
  3. Observe the teacher and make sure they are practicing what they teach, in fact they should be practicing at a much higher level than the students. Hypocrisy is an especially dangerous trait in any advisory or teaching role. How many times have you seen a Cardiologist that is overweight or a healer that is unhealthy?
  4. A teacher must never abuse their role or try to impose power over the students.
  5. Being cruel or mean does not make one a good teacher, on the contrary this behavior almost always is rooted in the teachers insecurity and awareness of their own lack of ability. Imagine what impact the following comments could have one a student: “You've been doing this how long, and you still cannot (______)..., or yelling at the students because they are not acting tough enough.”
  6. The teacher must not control the development or destiny of the student, it is not their job to make sure that once you are a student you will always be their student. Beware of the teacher that insists their way is the only way or do not study with or listen to anyone but them etc...
  7. The teacher must authentically and genuinely care about the students; if they are teaching for any reason other than the benefit and growth of the student(s) then it is time to leave. Notice the emphasis on benefiting the students and their personal growth, compared to making sure the number of students/patients/voting block etc... increases which will in turn increase the teachers benefits.
  8. The true and ultimate role of a teacher is to awaken a potential in the student that otherwise may have remained dormant or undeveloped. How can this occur if the teacher is dishonest with themselves and others? Keep a watchful eye out for the fraudulent, cocky, braggart teachers for they will only cause harm to your development. “When going for a stroll be always on guard for the snake disguised as a blade of grass.”
  9. A true teacher will cause improvement and assist in elevating growth and development of the sincere students.

Regardless of what information or goal someone is seeking, it must be realized that not everyone is qualified to teach, lead or advise. It is up to each seeker to make the connections through careful observation. Just because someone attended a particular school, received a particular training or has a title that evokes awe and admiration, does not mean they have cultivated the traits, experience or wisdom to teach, lead and advise.

The next article will focus on some of the more common faults of students.

Note: this is a modified version of a list from the book Scholar Warrior by Deng Ming-Dao.

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