Thursday, July 26, 2007

Teaching in the Glowy Stage

It's a special challenge to teach something when you are at the stage where it is all new and shiny. It's partly technical- there are few things that I really understood until long after they had lost the brand-new shine. You can teach what you know, but to teach well you need to understand. That's not the same.

(Aside- I have occassionally taught subjects that I barely knew, but only when I knew the students very, very well. There is a deep difference between teaching a subject and teaching a student. More on that later, perhaps.)

The real challenge, though, is controlling your enthusiasm. When you gain an insight or learn a new and wonderful thing you want to share. That's normal and fair enough, but far too often you find yourself sharing your enthusiasm when you think you are sharing the subject. Of the three possible ways to focus teaching, this is the worst. Teaching to the student is good. Teaching to the subject matter also; but when you are teaching your own enthusiasm, the lesson has become about the teacher- and you are the one thing that absolutely will not be there when the student needs the skill.

Enthusiasm is good, it is a source of friendship and passion- but it is also an attachment, artificial unless the students find it for themselves.

It's rarely necessary to express enthusiasm. If you are passionate you will work to understand, and the depth will show without any help.

1 comment:

Asher said...

Perhaps it is ironic that teachers must pass the stage of infatuation with their art before they can teach the art rather than the infatuation. This might be just a bit like moving past infatuation with another person, when all their flaws seem to be charms, into love, where their flaws are obvious but irrelevant to the love.

I tried to say something similar here, but of course used many more words.

I especially appreciate your comment that the teacher is the one person that will not be there when the student most needs the skill being taught. We should teach as if we will never be there when our student needs to use the most important parts of what we teach, no matter what the subject.

And of course I agree that you need never say aloud how much you love what you teach -- showing it is so much more effective.

Well said. Thank you.