Three kinds. I've had three kinds of teachers in my life: academic teachers, trainers who taught skills, and spiritual teachers. I'm deeply grateful to the teachers who taught me usable skills: language, cooking, music, sculpture and dancing come first to mind. I'm grateful to the academic teachers who set me free and encouraged me to learn on my own. Spiritual teachers want disciples rather than students. That whole idea is simply wrong. Schooling people in a religion or other system or framework for spiritual development is ludicrous, ultimately hideous. But spiritual teachers were valuable when they taught me skills or encouraged me to explore self actualization. Proving once again it ain't the meat it's the motion.
Lectures suck. I never had much use for the traditional lecture based teaching I got in subjects that didn't focus on physical skills, like geography and math. I can absorb that kind of material more readily from a book or screen. In most cases I'm not looking to absorb it anyway, just get a little nugget of understanding or wisdom from it. Why memorize crap you can easily look up if you need it? Memorizing the times tables up to twelve was useful. Beyond that I just needed to understand a few key ideas, like the practical uses of trigonometry and abstract numbers.
Mom and Dad were my best teachers in childhood and among the best I ever encountered. My dad was a genius teacher, engaging and encouraging my natural curiosity about the world again and again. And again. Mom simply did what she did transparently: I was always welcome to jump in and participate if I wanted to. I learned to cook by helping mom out in the kitchen. Neither of them ever discouraged my explorations unless they had legitimate concerns about my safety. I didn't tell them about exploring caves using a pop bottle of kerosene with a burning rag stuck in the top as a torch.
Learning and teaching dance. I started learning partner dance in 1992. I'd recently turned forty. Ah, youth. Only it wasn't. Forty is not a great time to start learning to dance. Somewhere around four or five is probably the ideal age to start learning dance skills. Seen through the lens of the ashramas I was right in the middle of my householder stage. But I still had good reserves of the physical and mental resources required for outer directed learning and study, so I did well. So well I ended up teaching dance to many receptive and enthusiastic students starting in 1999. I taught dance for eighteen years, until I finally burnt out on it. It made me deeply miserable to force myself to keep doing something that used to be so right but was now so wrong. In the meantime I got sucked into tango. I had dabbled a bit before but started studying in earnest in 2010 at the tender age of fifty-eight. I was able to find all the right resources inside to keep studying tango for eight years. Progress was slow because of my age. At the end of that stretch it got harder and harder to be in class, until attending even just a pre-dance drop-in class was sheer torture. I could no longer learn from an outside source like that, and trying to force that felt truly dreadful. I have reached the stage of life where I have to turn inward and learn from Leela, learn from my own body. I have to surrender to my own deep wisdom, my inner authority. That works beautifully for musicality but it doesn't help me with vocabulary and fine points of technique. I'm so grateful to all the amazing tangueras who are happy to dance with me anyway. I promise I'll do better next time.