Being a “master”’s not about willpower 🧠

25 February, 2024

Last year I attended a training session for gym instructors where the speaker talked about what it means to be a master in your discipline. I can’t say that’s something I’ve ever aspired to (“Jack of All Trades...Master of None” is much closer to my motto ), but the angle he took did resonate with me. 

He defined being a master as someone who deliberately seeks to grow. Not in a sporadic way that relies on inspiration and bursts of excitement or challenge, because those come and go; a master puts the systems in place to ensure that growth has to happen. My ears perked up.

The instructor had received feedback on areas in which he could improve so he set about observing other instructors with strengths in those areas. He knew where he wanted to grow but he also needed ways to make that happen. It wasn’t going to happen overnight or by trying extra hard for the next week. He needed systems to ensure that growth happened. This came in the form of establishing routines for learning new choreography and the way he systematically got to know all of the regular participants who attended his classes. And bit by bit he improved until he identified his next area for growth.

Another point he discussed was how people’s situations have a big role to play in their growth; when you are thrust into roles with responsibility or higher stakes, that accelerates your personal development because you have to rise to the occasion. On the flipside, it’s much harder when your situation is staying the same. That’s when the growth has to come from you. 

I think that the cool thing about this definition of a master is that it places the measure of success on something within your locus of control. It’s about sustained efforts and commitment to get that little bit better each day, putting structures in place to help us improve instead of waiting for luck, other people and inconsistent willpower to magically turn things around. That’s pretty powerful stuff. 

So where to now? 

First things first; you'll need to identify and acknowledge areas of your teaching which you can improve in.

It can be tempting to just run off some generic things that you know every teacher can improve at but really consider those things in the back of your mind that you’re a little scared to acknowledge. Maybe that you fumble your explanations to students, that you don’t make the most of your lesson time because you’re close to but not fully organised, that you let minor behaviour issues slide because it’s easier not to start a battle that you fear you might not win. (Yup these are all me).

Once you have something in mind, it's time to ideate. We need to build habits that are going to help us repeatedly make progress towards our goals. These can be small but they must be things that we can build into our school routines and interactions.

👉 Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

Area for growth: Student relationships

Possible new habits:

  • Greet every student by name when they enter the classroom

  • Reply to my students with “Tell me more” “Why’s that?” to dig a little bit deeper next conversation

  • Dedicate 2 mins a day engage with one of my quiet students

  • Make eye contact with every student in the room during my explanations

  • During pack up time, quietly praise a student for something awesome that I noticed them do during that lesson (bonus if they think I wouldn’t have seen it!)

Area for growth: Time management/ organisation

Possible new habits:

  • Prioritise the items on my to-do list at 8am each morning

  • Start every day by achieving one easy job off my to-do list (a quick win) to feel successful from the outset and create momentum

  • Arrive back at class 1 minute before the bell to get myself mentally prepared before the students come back in

  • Leave any resources for Block 1 the next day on my teaching table the afternoon before

  • Write down any time-wasting task I notice myself doing. Check my list every Monday arvo and ideate solutions (even better, do this with a colleague!)

  • Clear/ organise my inbox between 3.15-3.20pm every Friday

Hopefully that sparks a few ideas! Remember, start with one. Just one little thing that will make you grow. I would say good luck, but you don’t need luck when you take control, right? 😉

Be purposeful teachers
Who are in control
Feel inspired
And know they've done enough.