Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore


The Importance of Poor Performance

I wrote this in 2014 and the core message is still good so I gave it a refresh..

Before most workshops I worry that I may not perform well as a teacher. After the workshop is over, I am required to have students fill in a feedback form. Will I read them? Too often, I file these forms away, afraid to read them.

feedback form

 

A year passes. I prepare to teach the same workshop title again. Now, the purpose of the feedback forms is to improve the quality of education. So I really should dust off those feedback forms and read them before I teach the same title again. Do I brave my fear of looking back at student feedback forms and past handouts? Not in recent years. What am I so afraid of?

When I revise my handouts, or look at stories, articles and books I wrote two or more years prior, I usually gasp. I can’t believe I printed that, and handed it to people! What was I thinking? My older writing seems to expose me as arrogant or closed-minded. Because by “now” I think I am so much more enlightened. So I imagine students see me that way too, and I don’t want to look.

I might consider praying to God, or to a patron saint for teachers, asking the angels or getting a blessing from a shaman to guarantee my next teaching performance will be perfect. Wouldn’t that be nice? Resting in the certainty that I’ve got it covered?

In theory I understand that for one’s teaching to improve, there must be worse performances for it to improve from. This is the importance of poor performance. I realize that perfect teaching performances would mean the quality of teaching would never improve.

Some classes I teach, I do teach practically perfectly. As it is happening, and when it is over, I feel confident I did a great job. These times I do look at feedback forms, and I see mostly 10s. Then I feel self-satisfied. That feels good, right? Temporarily, yes, but there is a downside for me.

When I attend classes (which I must do to maintain my license just like everybody else), self-satisfied teachers really irritate me. My brain won’t let me have it both ways. Whenever I feel self-satisfied, my brain will give me a tinge of the judgment that I have applied toward those other self-satisfied teachers. Then I feel ashamed and guilty for being self-satisfied, because I judge that quality in other teachers.

Those irritating, perfect teachers demonstrate to students, Once you have “it,” like I do, you don’t need to learn any more. I see this a lot. There is an advertisement I have seen many times in massage magazines over several decades, showing a teacher doing his technique perfectly, and satisfied with his mastery. The photos of that teacher have stuck in my mind over two decades and whenever I see a new ad with that teacher I feel the irritating judgment all over again.

…As I wrote that last sentence I realize some of my photos show me being really knowledgeable, just like those aggravating photos of the other teacher. Again the shame of it! Arragh…

2004 Juneau rotator cuff

Teaching melting shoulder rotators in Juneau, Alaska 2004

In my first years teaching, I was trying, and maybe succeeding in perfectly performing the technique. Yay for me, but what about the students? My perfect demonstrations (of things that I had practiced thousands of times) made them feel they could not live up to the technique. Good for me, bad for students.

The irony I am seeing now is, my perfect performances, were at the same time poor performances. They were poor because they showed my arrogance (bad for me) and standards of knowledge and technique impossible for students to suddenly master (bad for students). So I do get to learn after all.

Some of the students from my first classes have kept in touch with me and attended again and again over the years. I wonder if they have seen my teaching improve from a self-satisfied teacher with perfect technique (all about me) to (something more useful for them)?

My poor performances become a good thing when I adjust them. Good for me, when I can be less arrogant. Good for students, when they get the message that, Yes I make mistakes, and you can too. Let’s experiment and be free to make mistakes and then let’s talk about the results because we will improve. The fact I was self-satisfied with my skills, by now is better for having happened that way

Now that I am thinking of this principle I guess it also applies to parenting and being a partner to my most favorite loved one. As I give myself permission to let it be a learning experience, I give others permission to also experiment and gain from mistakes.

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