As I approached the entrance to the gym, I glanced at my watch and breathed a sigh of relief.

It was 6:55 p.m.--which meant my son and I had a full five minutes to get inside, find the rest of our family and settle in to enjoy the always entertaining fifth-grade Christmas recital.

Like years past, this recital featured a passel of nervous kids performing--a skill only some of them actually had in front of a large audience.

As I watched kids unknowingly pick their noses, scratch themselves in unusual places and try to sing correctly (which I think means loudly) while also intentionally elbowing each other, I couldn’t help but smile.

I was also awed. Not so much by the talent on display (there actually was some), but by the moxy and unbelievable skill their teacher displayed. This petite woman ran the whole show--soup to nuts--while playing the piano.

In one sequence, I saw her start playing a piece one-handed while she used the other hand to get the kids started and keep them on pace. Then, still playing one-handed, she used her eyes and head to discipline a kid in the back row who evidently thought it would be fun to make up hand gestures to Frosty the Snowman.

The kid immediately stopped, squared up and got back to the business of yelling...I mean singing.

It was an awesome sight.

Even in this absolutely chaotic situation, she was able to work one-to-one.

As you well know, this is powerful, powerful stuff.

There are lots and lots of teaching methods; Lord knows I’ve experimented with them all, but in the end, absolutely nothing beats personalized, one-on-one instruction.

The ability to work with one person and tailor the instruction or program to address their specific needs is just naturally more effective than teaching a one-size-fits-all program to a group who, by definition, are different people in different phases of development.

Of course, truly awesome teachers find a way to work with groups of only vaguely similar people in a way that is more similar to one-to-one instruction.

Truly awesome teachers also are never satisfied with their efforts and are always striving to learn more and improve.

Because I know there are lots and lots of truly awesome teachers reading this issue, we worked hard to pack it with ideas you can use to improve your instruction. We offer a portfolio of programming ideas, ways to identify the core problem at the base of a kid who thinks dancing or arts and crafts are “for fairies” (and personalized, one-to-one solutions to those core problems), and more.

Since we are a business publication, we also included information on how to improve your bottom line without neglecting your facilities--see Chew On This.

All in all, I think it’s a great start to the New Year. I hope you agree.

If you do or if you don’t, drop me a line and let me know.

Till next month...

Rodney J. Auth