I’m a teacher. There was a time in my life when I never wanted to admit that. I was embarrassed. Similar to how I felt about The Old Man being a breadman.
Those who can. Do. Those who can’t. Teach.
I never wanted to be one of the people who “can’t.” I wanted more. I wanted to be in the “can do” group. Truth is, I got my degree in education because I wasn’t ready to face the real world after I graduated from university with my BA. So I decided to stick around for another year for the BEd.
Little back story.
I come from a family of teachers on The Old Man’s side so I think the teaching gene was in my DNA. It was also one of the honorable professions for women back in the day. But once I had my degree in hand and moved away from Northwestern Ontario, being a teacher suddenly felt dull. And after I met my first husband, who was a photographer at the time, teaching seemed enormously uninteresting.
Eventually I packed up my books and left the profession. Long story short. I went into Advertising, where I’ve had a modestly successful career as a writer and a producer.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching. And the career I left behind. Not because I want to go back and start over. Nor do I have any desire to rekindle that old flame. But because I have come to realize that you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher.
Teaching is in my blood. Even when I wasn’t standing in front of a class, I’ve taught. That’s what I do. It comes naturally to me. I love sharing what I know. And more importantly, learning from the ones I am teaching. There is so much to learn from the student, Grasshopper.
It’s such a symbiotic relationship. It’s not a one-way street. The pointer stick has two ends of equal importance.
Teaching is something you can learn to do. That’s what Education Faculties are all about. But it is also something that comes naturally for some people. It’s a gift. And we all know the teachers with the gift. They’re the ones who make magic happen in the classroom. The captivating ones. The ones who enthrall. Inspire. Engross. Mesmerize and leave us spellbound. They are the ones who stand before you and meet you eye to eye. Head on. Face to face. Right where you’re at. And you’re both the better for it.
People often teach things they are really good at. They may be gifted musicians. Or artists. Writers. Athletes. They may be born with a particular talent. (God only knows, we’ve all been given something unique at birth, whether we know it or not.) Others have honed their skills, developed their craft, taken their strengths to new heights.
Then through their own heartfelt desire, or because someone else asked or suggested. They began to teach. But just because you are good at playing an instrument, painting a picture, taking a photograph, writing a novel, song or a short story, or hitting, kicking or throwing a ball, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are equally good at teaching someone else to do the same.
I’m a lifelong student. Infinitely curious. I love to look under rocks. And gaze at the nighttime sky. I like to learn. Once I left the profession, much of what I’ve learned has been through books. As much as I like to learn, I love to read. I’ve also learned a lot through other people. Formally and incidentally. I’ve learned things from my family, friends, colleagues, strangers and the strange. My children, in particular, have all taught me much from the day each of them were born.
I am grateful to them all.
Here’s the big thing I’ve learned while on my quest for information, knowledge and wisdom. Here’s the mind-blowing thing I learned from all the teachers I have known. Whether it was learning to read, write, ride a bicycle, play an instrument, dance, paint a picture, take a photograph, work on a computer, use new technology or bake a blueberry pie. No matter how talented and gift the teacher. No matter how much they know about their particular subject matter. Regardless of how smart, wise, clever nor enlightened they may be. That doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if you can’t teach it to someone else.
Here’s the other mind-blowing thing I’ve learned. Sometimes what you’re learning isn’t what you’re learning.
I’ve spent years studying music. I’ve had a multitude of teachers and several different instruments. Most of which had strings. Some of my best teachers over the years, haven’t been the best musicians. Some at best, have been adequate. But what the best had in common? They could teach what they knew in a way that made sense. And worked and was effective. Here’s the profound thing. When they reached their limit of what they could teach you, they sent you on your way. This didn’t necessarily mean you had mastered anything, it just meant that the time had come when there was nothing more to learn from each other.
Here’s another tidbit of insight that I’ve learned. My latest revelation. Not all teachers and students are compatible.
I’ve worked with really gifted musicians, for example, who haven’t been able to teach me much of anything worthwhile musically. Why? I just didn’t get it. They might have been speaking Chinese. Or using American Sign Language. Neither of which I understand. It was the same with this. Instead of learning, I found myself nervous, self-conscious and tense. Distracted by my inability to learn from this person. The lesson couldn’t end soon enough. And afterwards, I couldn’t remember a thing they said or demonstrated. Yet, these same teachers have many students who do speak their language. Who do understand what they are saying and demonstrating.
But even these situations have been learning experiences. I may not have learned a new lick or mastered a new song, but I’ve learned. Something about the teacher and their story. I’ve learned new things about music and why we love it so.
I’ve also learned what kind of learner I am. To trust my instincts. I know after one lesson whether the teacher is someone who can teach me. Just me. Regardless of their track record with other student. None of that matters when you’re in the process of learning.
Therein lies the genius. The true talent of a gifted teacher is the ability to teach one person at a time. Even in a sea of students, a gifted teacher makes each one feel like they are the only one. They connect. Speak the same language.
Yes, perhaps those who can – do. But so do good teachers.