Just an intro
This post is triggered by following the news of some friends who entered the world of teaching tango. Given that as I wrote there is no predefined curriculum and no well-defined metrics and measurements for tango, I was wondering at which point one can feel that they know enough to be able to teach. I don’t mean to question or discourage anyone from getting into this journey but this is just a general kind of rhetorical question I have and I will not deal with it in this post. If you have however an opinion on it.. let me know in the comments.
I am no tango teacher myself and I don’t aspire to become one. I know what is my job, I love it and Tango for me is a multidimensional complex hobby. So, I don’t think I have the skills, the need, and maybe the guts to get into this game. Plus I have already been a teacher in other subjects in my professional career and I came to know that teaching is one of the most mentally demanding and psychologically challenging jobs one can do. (It sounds scary… because it is). Therefore I really appreciate it when I see teachers who are really good at their job.
Key traits of a good teacher
So what does a teacher need in order to be good at their job? First and foremost they should be able to have the ability to transmit their knowledge to other people. It’s not an easy thing. Don’t be disappointed if it is difficult in the beginning. Actually when you manage to make someone understand something you know you realize how much better you start understanding it yourself. In my first years as a teacher, I would often have difficulties explaining some programming concepts to my students. As the years passed and I had to answer the same questions again and again I realized how much easier it got and how much more inventive I became in explaining those concepts through other examples, simplification, etc. It’s really amazing to see how your knowledge deepens on the subject when you teach it! Really!
This brings me to the next thing a good teacher should have. Passion for their subject. If you don’t love it, if you are bored of it, if you do it only for the money… forget it! You better let it go. People learn easier by example and when you embody the example you want to teach with your whole personality it makes a huge difference in your impact on the students. Especially in Tango, you have to be the live example for your students. Your students will look up to you. If you say to your leader students for example that what matters most for social dancing is their embrace, some basic steps, and their musicality don’t go dancing in milongas doing a back sacada every four beats. Your words and actions don’t match and this sends mixed messages.
Finally, if you have the passion, teach by example and have the ability to transmit your knowledge, you will discover one more thing. You become a constant student yourself. First of all, as I said, you learn different ways to transmit knowledge, but this is the obvious one. If you are passionate enough you will never stop learning, taking classes, improving, and evolving your own knowledge on the subject. For me, one of the most interesting aspects of teaching was following the latest technological advances in the field so that I can discuss or present them to my students. For Tango, it might anything. A new sequence you found interesting… something you picked up in the last workshop you participated in… a story about a song you learned… a new element you noticed in a piece… there are so many things to discover and learn in this small Tango world. Rest assured! You will never stop learning.
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Well, you might find a ton of other things a good Tango teacher needs to have… but without these… just forget it. As a final note for all my teaching friends… never forget one of the most important reasons why we love tango. It is a uniquely wonderful way to connect and communicate with other people. We may enter Tango for many different reasons… but ultimately… this is what still keeps us addicted to it. Having said that, here is my advice and challenge to all of you. Try to inspire your students to discover on their own the joy that this connection can bring. That is why tonight’s Goodnight Tango is… El Motivo!