Instructor Versus Teacher

I think of myself as a teacher, not an instructor. Some people interchange the two terms, but they’re very different roles. 

Being an instructor is a relatively easy job. As the name suggests, it involves giving instructions: you tell people what to do, the people do what you say (or not, their choice) to the best of their ability, and it doesn’t go much further than that. As an instructor, what people do with your instructions is not really your business.

Being a teacher, on the other hand, is much more involved. A teacher does more than just give instructions. Obviously teaching involves giving instructions (there’s no avoiding that if you want to teach effectively), but it’s more about imparting your knowledge, and sharing the experience of learning with your students. As a teacher, your students’ development is of utmost importance to you.

Depending on where you work, you might be called “instructor” or “teacher”, but which of those you actually are really depends on you.

I work almost exclusively in gyms these days, so I’m almost always referred to by management as an instructor. Despite this label, I think of myself as a teacher, and act accordingly. The people in my classes are referred to as “members” by the management, but I don’t think of them that way at all: as far as I’m concerned, the people who attend my classes are my students, and I treat them accordingly.

Unfortunately, not all those attending my classes see things this way, and that can be a struggle for me as a teacher.

There’s the rare person who comes to a class and actively rebels against being taught. (Note: I’m talking about grown adults here, not children or teenagers.) I’ve actually had a few people storm out of my class to complain bitterly to management about the fact that I dared to tell them what to do. Lucky for me, I’ve been supported by management regarding my audacity in daring to tell my students what to do (I’m only the teacher, after all…). This attitude remains a mystery to me - I mean, why come to class if you don’t want to be taught? - but thankfully such people are very uncommon.

Then there’s a second kind of person. This kind of student doesn’t outright rebel, but also doesn’t really want to learn. They’re not really present, they only half-listen, and they’re not really interested in what’s being taught. They’re just there to move around a bit. Clearly, this attitude is not as grim as that of the rebellious student, but I still find it testing: for me, trying to teach people who have no real desire to learn takes some of the enjoyment out of teaching.

And, finally, there are those students who attend my classes who have a real interest in the discipline being taught (whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, or Bellydance). They listen carefully, always do their best, and continually strive to improve. It’s an absolute joy to teach people like this, and every time I encounter such a student it reminds me why I love to teach.

It’s the third kind of person who is truly a student and, in a way, it’s only in the presence of this kind of person that I’m truly able to be a teacher. Certainly I teach in the same manner to the rebellious types and those who only half-listen, but the rebellion and the half-listening create a wall between me and the student. It’s a wall that I didn’t erect, and is therefore a wall that I can’t take down - that’s up to the rebels and the half-listeners. And until that wall comes down, I can only ever be partially effective in my teaching.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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