By: John Savage USGTF Level IV / Course Examiner Langhorne, PA

  Teaching golf is a wonderful way to earn a living or supplement your income, whether or not it is being done full or part time. Teachers pass on to students, whatever their ages, new ideas that help them with their golfing abilities. Teaching is a relationship based on inequality. The teacher knows something the student doesn’t, and is accountable to teach it. The teacher also has the responsibility to judge the fundamental nature of the student’s learning ability. At the same time, students have the right to expect reliable teachers. You can’t be a good teacher if you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a student, especially the work it took for you to obtain your current knowledge and skill.   Excellent teachers constantly try to view the lesson from the student’s perspective. There are many differences in the styles of teaching, but unexpected similarities are in those that make up a good teacher. It often takes a long time to realize whether or not you’re teaching effectively. It is possible to be impressive, even theatrical, but not memorable. Always ask yourself, how could I do this better? How can I help the student learn this material more effectively? The benefits of teaching well are both practical and psychological; everyone who is learning something new feels mentally stimulated and stretched.   Take pride in helping students succeed, but don’t forget their limitations. Not all students will achieve great results. That’s no discredit to you if you did what you could, because you rarely get the ideal student. Make sure you are able to distinguish among the best students, the average ones, and the weakest. After you have assessed their athletic ability for golf, you then need to consider what will be the easiest and then the most difficult movements for them to perform.  Pertinent questions:   – What do you want the student to learn? – How do you intend to teach it? – What problems do you anticipate? – What methods will you use to overcome these problems? – How will you break the material down into manageable units so that the student will be able to effectively learn the swing corrections?   Teachers are often so familiar with the material that they sometimes forget it is new and alien to the student. Research shows that students learn most at the beginning of a lesson, so recap the information for greater retention at the end of the session.  Beware of trying to cram too much information into each lesson. There’s no value in “covering” a lot of material if the student is unable to retain it. One-on-one teaching allows you to direct all of your attention towards the student, and your choice of words affects your student’s understanding of the subject matter. When doing a group lesson, you have to bear in mind the variety of learners in the class, the variety of emotions they feel toward you as well as one another, and their reluctance to stand out from the crowd.   Technology is slowly affecting people’s learning habits, changing them from what we saw a few years ago.  In the past decade, filming a student has become one of the most widely used of all teaching technologies. High-speed cameras, computers, and videos have affected our thinking about what is going on in the golf swing of today. They have shown that there are different ideas about what is correct, and every idea has its difficulties in successfully relating the material to the student. Filming can also be overused or misused, but it has obvious benefits that will improve your teaching.  What does the student gain by seeing this film in addition to listening to you? The use of the on/off button tells the student when to return their attention to you. Don’t leave a film on the screen when you are no longer referring to it. Make sure the film works for you rather than replaces you. Use the reviewing of the film with your student to generate discussion about how they can help themselves improve. Asking questions helps the student understand your thought process regarding their swing. Discussion allows students to practice thinking through problems, as well as organizing key concepts.  As teachers today, we need to take advantage of the best of what is new and the best of what is old.   Most teachers are self-taught in regards to how and what they teach. Be aware that something which is easy for you may be very difficult for someone else. No one learns more from teaching than the teacher. It’s worth thinking about how to cultivate effective learning habits so you don’t get set in your ways. Look at different approaches to improve your thought pattern.   First-rate students educate themselves; the teacher is the facilitator.  In the end, every person has to educate him or herself, and our own willingness to learn is ultimately significant. At a certain point, it is very tempting to think that you know enough. However, lifelong learners resist that feeling, even if it threatens their sense of professional mastery.   We interviewed a number of teaching pros who have earned the label “great teacher.” When pushed on the question of what made them good, they all described their love of the work, their sense that their teaching could always be improved, and their enthusiasm for communicating what they know to students. They take pleasure in the achievements of their students, and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of teaching. They are self-critical, demanding, and eager to improve. They watch other teachers at work and try to adopt their colleagues’ most effective techniques. They treat new theories with skepticism and avoid quick fixes.   We speculated about whether great teachers are born or made, and whether the degree to which the ability to teach is something fortuitous or something achieved through practice and hard work. We never reached a consensus, though there was enough in common for us to be able to at least sketch the anatomy of a good teacher. So much of the work is cumulative. Not every teacher can be great, but with conscientious effort, nearly everyone can and should continue to improve month after month. Always act like the teacher you wanted rather than the one you had.
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