I went skiing for the first time in my life over Christmas break. It was a humbling experience; falling down and getting tangled up while six-year-olds zoomed past certainly deflated my ego a bit. I was truly fortunate in having my fiancé, Nate, with me the whole time. He was beyond patient with me. He smiled when I glared up from my powdery mess, helped me up, and gently corrected my posture, ski positions, and movement.
I realized that whether you are skiing for the first time or sitting in a college classroom, a good teacher will act with patience, humility, and a bit of good-humor.
A good teacher shows more patience than he feels, but there are some things he won’t let slide.
Nate didn’t expect me to be a great skier from the get-go, nor did he complain when my weak muscles delayed us both on the cross-country hike to one of the trails. When I was doing my best, he offered only encouragement. When it came to whining and adamant refusals to learn more, he wouldn’t hear of it. He kept pushing me, kept telling me to keep trying. He didn’t tell me off or get huffy, but he didn’t let me give up, either.
A good teacher never forgets what it is to fall—and to get back up again.
I fell. A lot. Half the time I did it on purpose—speeding down the slope faster and faster made me panic and forget how to steer or slow down or stop, so I’d wipe out and skid to a halt. Not the most efficient or pain-free way to stop, but it prevented the otherwise inevitable death by shooting off the edge of the trail (or something like that).
The hard part was getting back up again. I’d push and grunt and slide and trip my way into a crouch, then use muscles I didn’t know I had to pull myself vertical again. It was like learning to walk, but instead of delighted claps and cheers from smiling parents, I had skilled skiers whizzing past.
Nate waited patiently, but after my twelfth fall, the constant delays were wearing on him. Later in the day, he hit a patch of ice and fell down.
After struggling to get up, he panted, “That was harder than it looked.” Being more familiar with skiing, he could regain balance better than I, but that little reminder of being a beginner helped him appreciate my effort.
A good teacher remembers a novice’s over-ambition.
Once I started to get comfortable on the skis, I started trying to mimic Nate, thinking, “That looks pretty easy, and he isn’t falling down, right?” The only problem was that I hadn’t yet learned how to parallel ski or turn, so I was trying to weave down the mountain with the beginner “snow plow” ski stance. This worked well until I hit a steep patch, at which point I shot downhill, nearly hit another skier, skidded to the side as I shrieked back an apology, and dove face-first into a snowdrift. Nate helped me out and said good-humoredly, “You were trying to imitate me, weren’t you? Don’t be too ambitious yet!”