Bridge teaching is at the core of bringing more people into the game and into our clubs, and to that end the EBU is glad to sponsor club members who want to attend an EBTA teaching course – inevitably these have been disrupted by the current pandemic but we hope will be up and running again soon; and in the meantime (or as well), there is always opportunity to teach bridge online.
One of the questions though is how to encourage more people to come forward as teachers – and not just anyone, the people who are both well suited to the task, and who will follow up by actually running classes. What does it take to be a good bridge teacher?
First, while you must of course know the game well enough to teach it, you do not have to be one of the top players at your club – unless you are teaching at a more advanced level, which is less common than teaching beginners. The goal is to get people playing and enjoying bridge, and once students progress to the point where they can play in a club session, there are many different ways they can improve.
Equally, being an expert bridge player does not automatically make someone well suited to being a teacher. You also need a good level of empathy, being able to see bridge from the perspective of the newcomer and understand how challenging it can be, with so many rules and conventions.
Enthusiasm for bridge, on the other hand, is really important. Enthusiasm is infectious and someone who loves the game will help students to love it too.
Patience, friendliness, ability to explain, confidence in leading a group, sense of humour, good organisation skills: all these are great qualities for teaching bridge. None of us is perfect though, so you don not have to score highly in every aspect to be an excellent bridge teacher.
How can you find out if you or another person will be an effective teacher? Going on a course is one way, but represents a considerable commitment. Another possibility is to find teachers locally and offer to assist them, or join in with teaching and supervised sessions at a club. It will soon be apparent whether it is something you could be good at doing.
When I attended a teaching course myself, I found it more challenging than I had expected. Knowing how to play bridge is only the start. Managing a class of students and working out how to pace the course for them and convey the basics of the game, while also keeping it entertaining and not too much like going back to school, is demanding though also very satisfying.
Bridge teaching is hugely worthwhile because it has such long term impact. Bridge is a game for life, it helps us find new friends as well as being a superb mental exercise. Most important, it is a lot of fun, and enabling new people to enjoy bridge is a wonderful gift.
There are people in every club who would make excellent teachers, so now is the time to give them a nudge.