Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

You, dear reader, have likely heard that rotten saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” There is so much wrong with this idea, but of particular interest for this essay, I observe that teaching–whether in a classroom or doing editing work with a client–is a good way to improve one’s doing.

This may seem like nonsense. Isn’t a teacher supposed already to know a subject? Frankly, that is the attitude of those who aren’t involved in the process. Teachers learn a field in the same way that everyone else learns that field. Now teachers presumably are more interested in the subject and thus may absorb more of its knowledge and skills, but being human, they have the same gaps in learning. They also learn from a perspective or a limited number of perspectives. Having acquired a finite body of information that they’re skilled at using and seeing it from one position, they go out into the world to share with students.

Here’s where the best learning comes in. I know for a certainty that a teacher will discover the gaps in his understanding the quickest when standing in front of a class. I also know that good students bring new ways of seeing the subject. By being willing to adapt to and sometimes adopt alternative views, I improve in my own knowledge of English writing and literature, the subject that I teach and practice.

But there’s more. Students need to see a process step by step. People who have been doing something for years tend to skate over the basics and fudge the details, and that’s where errors and stumbles often come in. Students don’t tolerate this. They force the teacher to pay attention, to follow the logic in every step, and to make sense. This makes a teacher a better doer.

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