First Teachers


Lately I’ve been reminded of the importance of First Teachers….and First Lessons.

In learning theory,  the Law of Primacy tells us that we tend to remember best what we learned first. Our first teachers lay patterns of thought, conduct, and practice that can become very deeply rooted. So when choosing martial instructors, firearms instructors, or tactical/self defense instructors it is important to choose our teachers well, to avoid being led down the wrong path and later having to spend  countless hours unteaching, rebooting, or rooting out, the programming a bad – or unknowing – first teacher installed.

I have found this to be true in the different disciplines I have practiced, both in myself and now, down the road a bit, in observing other teachers and students, from martial instructors to Field Training Officers (FTOs) in police work. Except in the latter case, the students often have no choice at all in selecting their instructors.

That being said, the saying that there are “no bad students, only bad teachers” is foolish. Of course there are bad students – I’ve been one myself. And we all know that “some people, you just can’t reach.”

Some teachers I have had, I knew were bad, and moved on fairly quickly. Some were fine, good even, but they just weren’t for me, or did not bring me closer to my goals at the time.


Others I thought were bad, or weren’t for me, until I learned that it was me that was the bad egg. Sometimes, when we are further down a road, we learn to see what we could not have seen before – we get closer to that bird’s eye view of the map the teacher was laying out, but in our obstinacy, or pride, or foolishness, we could not or did not place our trust in the teacher.

And this trust is very important. Without it, real learning cannot exist. The student will always doubt, and the teacher, even if subconsciously, will glean this doubt and realize the student isn’t truly ready for real learning.


And so we go. I’ve stepped off more than one path, and sometimes I’ve found I’d been right to do so. Others I later learned were leading where I wanted to go – but I got off the map, and tried to get back on the path, or had to find an alternate route.

Thankfully, the principles of learning also tell us that what was learned last – most recently – is also best remembered. So if we have got back on that proper path, or toward that goal, we are learning what is best remembered.

In every sense of that term.



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