What it takes to be a great teacher

Kathy Krugergratitude, yoga16 Comments

She hugs you like a long-lost best friend. And then hugs the next long-lost best friend just as warmly. Yet you still feel special. She smiles on high-beam.

Her laugh is contagious and her loud American accent isn’t even annoying – it’s joy on loudspeaker, with a twang.

She strums a ukulele and serenades you in Sanskrit – you’re smiling in peaceful bliss even before the class starts.

I don’t know about you but I have huge admiration for teachers. The ones at school who teach my kids are practically saints (or have the patience of Job).

I know not all teachers are quite so good, but on the whole I think it takes a special kind of person to face lots of little people, tweens or teens every weekday (hard to say which is the hardest class).

Lately I’ve been really appreciating the yoga teachers in my life, and trying to learn not just yoga, but how to be a better teacher – actually how to be a better person.

Most of us teach in different capacities throughout our lives – as parents we are our children’s first and most important teachers. At work we might mentor less experienced colleagues or junior staff, while we might pass on hobbies or skills to others as a coach or just as a friend. Even as kids we probably taught a younger sibling or cousin how to play a game, throw a ball or do a cartwheel.

But unless it’s your profession, you probably don’t really think of yourself as a teacher. Which may mean you are selling yourself, and those you teach, short.

In typical yin-yang fashion I look at it this way – the teacher is always a student and the student is always a teacher. One of my yoga teachers says that students teach her something every class (because she is so open to learning).

And there’s a quote from yoga master Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini Yoga to the west.

“If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”

I’m off to do Yin Yoga teacher training which consists of two weekend intensives (8 hours per day) and I have a two-night weekend yoga retreat sandwiched in between. That’s three weekends where I’ll be offloading parenting duties to hubby and neglecting wifely duties, plus I’ll have some study and classes on top of that.  So what it takes to be a teacher for me is a very supportive husband. I am so lucky.

Dani G

We were lucky to have a beautiful yogi at our studio visiting from the US – she must be the happiest person I know, with the best hugs in the world, and she’s a great teacher.

What makes her so good is how much she gives.

She also expects her students to give back – she challenges us and because she gives so much, you absolutely want to give back by doing your best.

She doesn’t just teach yoga, she models how to give. She models how to live. I miss her already.

There are other great teachers at the studio (including the lovely lady who will be leading our yin yoga training) and I’ve been blessed with beautiful teachers and mentors in the past – in yoga and in life.


Apart from subject matter (which I’ve forgotten a lot of, particularly algebra), there are lessons I’ll never forget from great teachers, and this is what I can pass on now.

What it takes to be a great teacher:

  • Great listening
  • A true sense of service
  • Trust in your students
  • Belief in them
  • Belief in yourself
  • Knowledge, but also wisdom
  • A lifelong quest to learn more
  • Confidence in what you know
  • Humility that you’ll never know it all
  • High expectations of your students
  • High expectations of yourself
  • Compassion
  • Patience (of Job, who according to the Bible, was patiently faithful in God even when a series of disasters befell him and was eventually rewarded with good health and wealth, living to 140 years old! Better keep up the yoga!!)
  • Self-forgiveness for when you don’t have patience
  • Forgiveness for when your students don’t listen, don’t work or don’t have patience to learn
  • A bright smile
  • A love of life
The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.Kahlil Gibran

With thanks to Dani G, Natasha, John, Greg, Natalie, Kim, Staton, Eunice, Mimi, Trish, Shalaegh, Shanti (not to mention Mrs C in Year 6 and Mr G in Year 12 Economics).

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT . What do you think it takes to be a great teacher – have I missed anything? Who was/is your favourite teacher?

Namaste sign off_edited-1

Kathy X

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Kathy KrugerWhat it takes to be a great teacher

16 Comments on “What it takes to be a great teacher”

  1. Caz @ Home Heart Haven

    So true, teachers come in many forms and the best teachers are also inquisitive learners. As an ex-teacher myself and now as parent to a child who has had some extraordinary teachers in his life so far, the other thing I’d add to the list is passion. Passion for what you’re teaching, passion for sharing it with others and passion for people.

  2. Deborah

    When we’re young teachers play such a HUGE role in our lives. It’s not until we’re older we realise they’re fallible. My favourite teacher in recent years (decades) was my faux zumba (‘dance for fitness’) teacher at the gym I went to before leaving Brisbane. She was amazingly empowering and made us all feel good about ourselves all of the time. And she was effusive. The gym I went to was under my workplace and I’d go in on my days off to attend her class!

  3. JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter)

    All teachers are amazing! We are lucky enough to have fantastic teachers and leaders in our lives. At school, our dance teachers, piano tutors, drama teachers, my pilates physio – all wonderful. It takes a certain something to be a wonderful teacher.

  4. Emily M Morgan

    A great teacher is so important, it’s true. I’ve had some wonderful ones over the years. It’s interesting what people consider essential in a good teacher. One family I know has for their kinder teacher someone who other teachers believe to be one of the best. But this family doesn’t feel the same, as they came from the Solomon Islands where the teachers in general were much more hands on and loving, so the mother feels that this lovely teacher is stiff and formal.

  5. Lisa@RandomActsOfZen

    Exciting times ahead for you, Kathy!
    I love the teachers that see something in each child, and strive to develop it. No matter what, they recognise a positive in all the little ones. xx

  6. hugzillablog

    Oh. My. Goodness. I do an hour of volunteering in my kid’s kindergarten class every fortnight and I have come away with an even greater respect for teachers and what they do. After an hour of dealing with 20 little people I am mentally exhausted! Just trying to balance all the personalities and interact with them on the different levels they are at. It’s incredibly challenging!

  7. toniazemek

    Totally agree Kathy, teachers can be found in lots of vocations. That said, I really admire school teachers. I don’t know how they do it!

  8. mummywifeme

    I admire teachers too, Kathy. Especially the day care teachers. My daughter’s preschool teacher looked absolutely exhausted as she left yesterday. She gives the kids her all. Sounds like you have some really amazing yoga teachers in your life. Enjoy the training 🙂

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