Only ‘BAD’ Teachers -The Myth


Pat Morita in The Karate Kid (1984) aka, Mr. Miyagi

Attached below is a gem of a blog submitted by a blogger on a tutoring site called ‘Spectrum Tuition‘. The article touches on the ‘No such thing as a bad student‘ notion in which he references the line by Pat Morita in the 1984 movie ‘Karate Kid’. I’ve heard that idea for years….and I have now repented of occasionally repeating this oversimplified phrase in the past a few times in conversations with other parents sharing their frustrations in dealing with their struggling school children when a teacher has seemed less than stellar in their ability to manage their classroom and motivate children to learn the required curriculum. After my own awakening,  I really began taking note of how people, (and not only children) in general, acclimatize to any new information being presented to them…especially if accepting that new information forces a life changing choice or causes a shift in their current paradigm. Whether the new understanding is obtained through the written word, a friend, a teacher, meditation, the spirit, a visitation…. People respond differently to anything that has the potential to mess with their pre-existing system of belief. ie. discovering something that was ‘previously unknown’ to them that fundamentally alters the perception they have of themselves or the world. Or being reacquainted with knowledge that was lost to them but is now being brought back to their ‘remembrance’ and having that new information alter them in such a way that they can not go back to their ‘old’ way of thinking or interacting with the world. These changes are sometimes difficult for the mind to adjust to.  How people react or respond to these emotional upsets are as vast and varied as there are different people on the planet.

You could say that a message – an especially important message – in order to be legitimate, does not always rely on the type of medium being used for that message to be authentic. Nor does that message require the hearer to accept what truth is being relayed to them for the message itself to be or inspired, important, or valid.

Can the teacher always be to blame for a student failing to rise up?

I agree with the writer, I think I understand the actual intent behind the saying itself, though I think there’s always room for some extra clarification…..

“No Such Thing As Bad Student, Only Bad Teacher.” Really?

-Written by

In the 1984 film, The Karate Kid, wise old karate master Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that there is “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” Is this true?

What Mr. Miyagi is trying to emphasise is the importance of good teaching. Of course, the value of an inspiring, dedicated and experienced teacher cannot be underestimated. However, what Miyagi fails to take into account is that learning is a shared responsibility. No matter how good or bad a teacher is, a large portion of the responsibility must fall on the student. Ideally your child and their teacher are a team, working together to achieve a common goal. Today, I provide some examples on ways that teachers and students can work together to ensure that their time in the classroom is as successful as possible!

1. A good teacher… provides clear explanations.

Every great teacher I have ever had was able to explain difficult and unfamiliar concepts in a way that was easy to understand. They used real life situations, concrete examples and clear diagrams. They modelled methods and clearly demonstrate that what they are teaching you makes sense.

A good student… actively engages with explanations.

However, no matter how good a teacher’s explanations are, they will ultimately be unsuccessful unless your child is willing to actively engage with the explanations. This means they have to do more than just sit and listen. Actively engaging means taking notes, asking questions and trying examples. A good student will take it upon themselves to ensure that they have done everything in their power to understand what has been explained.

2. A good teacher… makes time to help each of their students individually.

Every student needs a bit of extra help once in a while. A good teacher is one that ensures that they set aside enough time to give each and every student the one-on-one assistance that they need.

A good student… knows how to make the most of this time.

When teachers sit down with a student to help them individually, they are usually faced with two types of questions:

1) “I don’t understand any of this. Can you help me?”


2) “I didn’t understand question 5c. I think I got the first bit correct, but I don’t know how to find the value of y.

As you can probably tell, the teacher will find it much easier to help the second student, because they have clearly taken the time and energy to work out specifically what they need help on. A teacher’s time is limited; the more your child can think ahead, reflect on their own weaknesses, and give ask specific questions, the more likely they are to receive the help that they need.

3. A good teacher… gives constructive criticism.

A good teacher never gives a mark on an essay or an assignment without letting the student know exactly why they got that mark. The more feedback a teacher gives, the easier it will be for students to improve in the future. The best kind of feedback is constructive criticism; it lets the student know what they did wrong, but also provides positive advice on how they can improve next time.

A good student… takes responsibility for their own performance.

Unfortunately, a lot of students like to fall back on excuses when it comes to feedback. They say things like “the teacher didn’t say why I got such a bad mark” or “they just gave me a bad mark because they didn’t agree with my opinion.” While this may be true in a very, very small minority of cases, these complaints more often come from students who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own performance. A good student makes sure to take all feedback on board and actively tries to incorporate it in their future work. If the feedback is unclear, a good student will politely ask their teacher for more advice on how they can improve.

4. A good teacher… sets high standards for their students.

Some of the best teachers I ever had, especially in my VCE years, were the ones who never let me relax. No matter how hard I worked, they always set higher goals for me and encouraged me to achieve more. The best teachers are the ones who know exactly how high to set the standards for their students in order to keep them constantly motivated to improve.

A good student… sets higher standards for themselves.

However, this is not enough. A good student should set their own standards and follow their own goals. No matter how motivating a teacher may be, your child should learn how to take control of their own performance and develop valuable self-motivation skills.

5. A good teacher… respects their students.

A good teacher values the opinions of their students, understands the pressure they are under and always tries to make them feel safe, secure and supported within the classroom.

A good student… respects their teacher.

A good student understands that they and their teacher are on the same team. A good student respects the effort that their teacher puts in to educating them and rewards that effort with their attention, their dedication and their hard work.

Simple reasoning, no??

What one chooses to do with new information, whether or not it has been openly received and/or internalized, is really up to the learner. But for some, the vessel by which they gained their information (especially if it is a ‘man’) becomes the stumbling block that prevents them from progressing and obtaining more knowledge.

This statement ‘No Bad Students, Only Bad Teachers’ recently came up as the focal point in a conversation with a teenaged child of mine – (though, I think it was mostly an attempt to try using it as a crutch to distance themselves from their own responsibility in having to apply themselves to achieve their own academic successes)  I realized too well that this prevailing idea that ‘someone else is responsible for my life failures’ is embraced and used as an excuse for underachievement, unsatisfied lives, unrealized dreams  –  over and over. The ‘pupil’ only suffers (Does not learn the message of what is being taught or is not successful in their endeavors) because the teacher  (boss, parents, university professor) has not worked hard enough or effectively enough for the information being taught to stick – and, thereby, internalized by the students’ mind. The original intent of the original statement ‘Only Bad Teachers…as in ‘try hard as you can to reach this student and help them reach their academic potential’ is lost and is then superseded by this overly simplified meaning instead that ‘you suck, therefore I fail’…..Can’t be my fault I’m not cutting the mustard, so it must be yours.

Teachers, messengers, presenters, vessels (whatever label you want to apply) and their method/mode of teaching – good and bad – are just as vast and varied as there are  students listening to and learning from them. A teacher may be a great teacher, dedicated and willing to do whatever it takes for the student to learn. But the teacher is only half of the equation….. Just because the learner doesn’t ‘get it’ straight away doesn’t mean they are lost forever and will ‘never’ understand what is being taught. Maybe they just aren’t ready to hear what is being taught…yet.

(For an example of how one person sharing an experience (‘a teacher’) can have their message discredited as invalid – by reason of  lack of tangible worldly evidence,  see ‘Have You Opened Your Eye?. Does the disbelief of the hearer (‘the student’)  and their inability to accept what is being presented make the message shared untrue???

In regards to people delivering a message…Note: People are flawed. It’s always a mistake to focus on the messenger – do not focus on their personal appearance or popularity, don’t lean on their worldly learning, their flowery words (or improper use of grammer), good looks (or maybe they’re not so pretty), or their lifestyle (or lack of it). I’d suggest hearing anyone out – without relying on them personally for what the spirit can convey to you… Let the spirit guide. You can dicern for yourself if there is a message from God there. If not, walk away. No harm done. No one ever died from listening… course there are always exceptions to any rule – but for now, as far messengers go, we will – for simplicities sake – assume that the messengers we are not talking about are generally not mass murderers, baby killers and psychopaths….anyone else is fair game to listen to, and you can do so with a fairly high degree of safety….and they just might have something to offer. If there’s light, accept it. That’s a lot easier than wasting your time trying to tear apart someone because your life experience is different than theirs.

(I highly recommend reading another blog as well – ‘Truth and Spheres‘. The discussion focuses on where we are on our own path and why we may or may not be ready to receive more. The explanations are simple, thorough, and definitely inspired. Anyone wanting a little more understanding in seeing ‘the BIG picture’ with regards to our relationship with God, our families, and acceptance of others and their weaknesses…Pfft! Who am I kidding? Who doesn’t?…And there are cool graphs and illustrations!!! Much time and energy went into presenting that message. It is well worth the read….Thank you, Jeremy)

In considering my life with my spouse and children, and every experience that has pointed me to God and a renewed relationship with my Savior, this saying about ‘No Bad Students, Only Bad teachers’ makes my shudder just a little. Hasn’t the Savior done all and more of the 5 points laid out in Allen Tsens blog of what could be considered the attributes of a ‘Good Teacher’? How many people in the world are truly ‘good students’ in life, or at school, even if they want to be there? Have we been ‘good students’ of the Savior of the world, hanging on every teaching the Lord has ever presented to us? He has taught us by example how to love, forgive, accept all people. Doesn’t He wait for us to breach the barrier and pass through the veil? During His entire earthly life and after his death, he sent messengers to teach us how to do this.. He sends them still. Does he ever give up trying to reach His ‘students? Is it His failure as a teacher that prevents us from knowing how to utilize and exemplify all that He taught?

Our is it ours?

This is why there is grace…..and it is sufficient for all.

How many times have attempts been made to humiliate and discredit Christ – the greatest teacher the world has ever known? How many times has He been disbelieved, considered ineffectual, or irrelevant? I wonder if I would have patiently sat at His feet and internalized what He endeavored to teach us all. His teaching is perfect….and I know I will never be the perfect student.

If you have a message – share it.                                                                                                                If the Lord visits you and asks you to share your experience – do it.                                                If you are prompted to feed and clothe the naked – it’s a privilege to be able to provide it.    If you are alone because you did all that the Savior asks of you – rejoice in it. If you are ridiculed and dismissed – be grateful for it.

 You are in good company.




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1 Response to Only ‘BAD’ Teachers -The Myth

  1. Jeremy says:

    “Thank you, Jeremy”
    🙂 Im glad it was of value.


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