How a Teacher Changed My Life

Filed under: Personal Growth

How A Teacher Changed My Life

by Mike Mandel

I’ve had lots of great teachers, but he was the best…

I believe that all of us have something of value to offer and teach others.

I think of it as a sort of casual mentoring, with no obligation or structure; just passing on what we’ve learned to the younger generation or perhaps one of our peers.

And if knowledge is important, wisdom is even more so.

Because if knowledge is information, wisdom tells us what path to take and what to do with that data.

As a teacher and trainer, I’m keenly aware of my responsibility to my students, ensuring I provide accurate information and also the application of that knowledge in a beneficial way.

Over time, I’ve modeled some of the methods I’ve learned from great teachers and presenters, and one obvious choice was NLP Co-founder, Dr. John Grinder.

I can remember being transfixed while watching Grinder teach a class in Toronto. He was the essence of elegance. Every word, every gesture was flawlessly timed and effortlessly delivered as he calibrated the entire class’s responses and subtly adjusted his behavior for maximum effect.

I owe much of my teaching style to John Grinder, and I occasionally hear from presenters who are modeling my style now.

There’s a subtlety to presenting well. One must engage, captivate attention, and use occasional humor to prevent student fatigue.

Perhaps the best professional presenter I’ve ever seen was Dr. Jordan Peterson, who held an enormous audience in the palm of his hand for two hours, with no notes at all.

But in my estimation, I was most influenced by a young teacher I met in 1963…

My family just moved from Toronto to the suburb of Scarborough. We switched from a rented house to an apartment and I had to change schools, which was quite stressful.

I left the elderly and stately three-story Earl Beatty Public School and was transferred to the modern, single-story Wexford Public School, where I’d spend grades six, seven, and eight.

I’ve said before that I’m a homebody and I’m mostly done with travel. In fact, I’m never happier than when I’m with my wife and cat, either in our medium-sized house or our small cabin on a lake in the Great White North.

For me, there really is no place like home.

So moving to another school was a really stressful event, replete with a new neighborhood and probably a fresh crop of local bullies. I was a bright boy, but a very small bright boy, which often seemed to draw the attention of the nastier kids.

But my grade six teacher was like no one I’d ever met.

His name was Donald Thain, and he was without a doubt the most skilled and compassionate teacher I’ve ever known.

Thain was a young man, fresh from teachers’ college. He was a bachelor and lived with his mother. Other than that, I knew nothing about him.

But this was a guy who really cared about his students, and he had an incredible knack for engaging our attention, whatever he was teaching.

We learned science, grammar, gym, composition, art, and music.

Mr Thain taught it all.

Our room was replete with papier-mâché planets in proper scale, hanging from the ceiling, and terrariums containing a horned toad, snakes, lizards, mice, a tarantula, tropical plants, and a host of other living things.

We even had a hive of honey bees that vented to the outside. (Can you imagine getting away with that in today’s world?)

And everything he taught was fascinating.

I recall a class in punctuation, which he illustrated on the blackboard with a pair of construction paper racing cars that accelerated or stopped, depending on the commas and periods.

It made total sense.

In an exercise on English composition, Mr. Thain put on a fife and drum record and instructed us to write a letter back to England from this fledgling new nation, Canada, circa 1867. He then collected our papers and baked them in his oven at home, giving everyone’s work an antiqued look.

But most of all, it was his ability to hold our attention that grabbed me.

Donald Thain understood curiosity and engagement, and knew how to use one to gain the other from the class. His body language, tone, and infectious excitement were a master class in congruence and confidence.

And over the years, I consciously unpacked and modeled his methods, because we’re all presenters in one context or another.

And presentation skills are what I’ll be teaching at HypnoThoughts Live in Las Vegas, in less than a month. This will be the first HT Live where nobody gets to use PowerPoint or slides; a prospect I relish since I’ve never used them at all.

So if you’re coming to Las Vegas, check out my one-hour training on how to be a kick-ass presenter!

It’s pure Donald Thain.

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"I absolutely love the online course. It completely changed my life and consulting career. The information is the best I've ever seen. You guys are incredible at what you do. I love the course so much."

Jason Cyrus

Connecticut, USA