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December 15th, 2020
There are many teachers who have little interest in teaching. Such people really shouldn’t be teachers, but are somewhat pushed into the profession when an intense interest yields no other income.
Take for instance a piano teacher. Does an intense enjoyment from playing the piano automatically translate to an intense enjoyment with teaching?
The answer here encapsulates a vital mistake that many often make, when choosing professions and suggesting routes of living to others.
A degree in literature? Are you planning to become an English teacher? Again, an enjoyment of the classics and the intricacies of narrative and form don’t necessarily mean that someone has an interest in teaching.
The problem is that we don’t see the act of teaching as it’s own subject. We see teaching as a meta aspect of the subject being taught, but this is a grave mistake. Teaching in many ways transcends any topic that seems to be it’s object. In order to transfer ability and understanding to someone else, the main skills are communicative. An excellent teacher pays very close attention to the student, intuiting their thinking, studying their output, say finger placement with the piano, but also their facial expression. While learning we often become very honest with the signals we broadcast about how much difficulty and confusion we are experiencing. The good teacher is sensitive first and foremost to these signs and constantly adjusts and adapts the current topic and task to fit the speed and understanding of the student.
No one is without the experience of sitting in a classroom, paying attention and without understanding the lesson at hand, the teacher moves on to the next part. So many human pressures are at play in such a situation. Do we raise a hand, hold up the entire class in order to backtrack in order to get up to speed? So many simply remain silent, doubting themselves with the assumption that the rest of the class ’got it’. But if the session had been one on one almost everyone would ask to rewind a bit. And beyond this, the exceptional teacher anticipates it, seeing the lack of comprehension on the student’s face.
Are the countless teachers working operating on these levels? Certainly many are, but many many more have found themselves teachers by way of other credentials. Teaching is considered as an addendum to the subject, when it should be the other way around.
The person who is well practiced in the art of teaching doesn’t even need to know much about the subject in order to teach it because such a person understands that the task lies in communication, not just between teacher and student, but between the subject and those engaging with it: an excellent teacher can simultaneously learn and teach a subject, conveying revelation on the fly, using the comprehension of the student as a gauge and an aide.
The teacher doesn’t just convey information, but collects perspectives, so that they might see and misunderstand the subject from a variety of angles, and by inhabiting the space of the confused student, guide them, as they would themselves to the point of view needed in order to understand.