Most of us have had at least one really great teacher and one really bad one. We know what we like and expect in a teacher and judge them based on that. I have had teachers over the years whom others have not liked. There were also other teachers I thought did a horrible job but other students thought were the best they ever had. Most of what people perceive as a good or bad teacher is usually based on things like personalities and preferred learning styles. But all good teachers have a few things in common that is universal whether or not we like them and/or their style.
The first thing a teacher of the Craft has to have is knowledge of the subject at hand. You can not teach what you do not know. It will become very apparent very quickly that you know not of what you speak if you try. That does not mean that a good teacher needs to know everything. They should just be knowledgeable enough to be creditable and for the most part accurate. A good teacher should be honest. Honest enough to admit if they don’t know the answer to a specific question and honest enough to look into it and get back to the student in a timely fashion.
A good teacher should be honest enough to admit being incorrect. If s/he makes a mistake or imparts false information s/he should be able to admit that the mistake or error was made. Everyone makes mistakes at some point but what makes others trust your words is the ability to admit you were wrong and correct the mistake. A good teacher should be humble. Teachers are not Gods. They do impart knowledge not previously known but they are not invincible or infallible. Being able to admit mistakes, accept constructive criticism and correct errors is all a part of learning and teaching.
A good teacher should be able to learn something from his/her students. There is always something more you can learn. Even a different perspective can be a learning experience. You don’t have to agree with another’s opinion or belief to learn from it either. Teaching and/or learning is not brainwashing. A good teacher should respect each student as an individual. Each person is unique. Differences of opinion, attitude, personality, etc should be celebrated. The classroom (or where ever the teaching/learning occurs) is not a place to squash the individual. It is a place to enlighten and open the mind.
A good teacher should be patient and flexible. Not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way. There may be some students who can pick up on an idea or concept very quickly, there are some that need more time and one on one tutoring, and then there are some who may never understand. A good teacher knows that sometimes you have to slow the pace down for those who don’t quite understand yet keep it interesting enough for those who already do. A good teacher should be tolerant. Paganism is a very diverse path. Each person has a unique story on how s/he has found this way of life.
Those past experiences shape the way each student thinks about Paganism, magick, religion, and people in general. A good teacher of the Craft will understand that each person s/he is teaching has a different perspective and will try to teach with that in mind. Granted, there are some things that a teacher can not and should not tolerate, but for the most part s/he needs to recognize that each person is an individual. A good teacher should recognize his/her own mortality. Being able to do magick is a very powerful thing. Taking that to the teaching level means that you are directly responsible for someone else’s magical training.
It can be real easy to think of yourself as greater than you are because you can do magick and someone else can not. You are, however, still a flesh and blood person and are teaching a flesh and blood person. You are fallible. You are mortal. A good teacher knows when to let the students go out and practice on their own. At some point everyone needs to take the knowledge that they know and put it to practical use. Magick is a powerful thing and it can be very easy to want to hold the student’s hands each and every time they try something.
But part of learning is making mistakes. A good teacher of the Craft knows when to help and when to back off. A good teacher knows that his/her way is not the only way. There are many ways to get from point A to point B. Just because one way works for the teacher does not mean that that way will work for all the students. Obviously there are basics that should always be followed. However, the students individuality and imagination to explore should never be squelched just because the teacher thinks one way and the student thinks another (e. g. teacher may incorporate a form of Qabala into the ritual but the student does not feel comfortable doing so. Neither are wrong, just different personal preferences). The teacher should be there to impart the knowledge and the student is there to take what information s/he can and use it as it pertains to his/her path. Granted, in a coven setting most would like the basics to be the same but even using the same basics there are still many paths to the final destination. If a teacher forgets that then s/he is not teaching. S/he is brainwashing.
A good teacher knows his/her boundaries. By this I mean they know how to keep the teacher/student relationship just as that. A teacher can and should have a personal relationship with each student but the level of that relationship should stay teacher/student only (unless the student is your significant other and then you should still be able to distinguish between class time and personal time). In my opinion there is NO excuse for soliciting, pressuring, intimidating, and/or threatening a student for personal and/or sexual favors. That crosses the line.
Being a teacher is being in a position of some power and misusing that power is one of the most dangerous and detrimental things a teacher can do to a student. It is wrong and should not be tolerated by anyone. These are just a few things that I think make up a good teacher. Obviously the traits I have listed can be attributed to all teachers, not just teachers of the Craft. Choosing to teach should not be embarked upon on a whim. It is a serious responsibility to impart knowledge. To do so with talent, style, grace, intelligence, compassion and love should be what each teacher desires and strives for.
Courtney from Study Moose