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Teaching is an ART. I truly believe that and it is through the slow ooze of experience, of classroom trial and error that one becomes a master teacher.

I'd like to share here, my own thoughts and ruminations on teaching, good teaching. I have many years experience and will leave some notes here for others who are following. Hopefully, after a few months, I'll collect for a nice presentation for beginning teachers.

The entries will be short, concise. Meant for others to think about , ponder and arrive at their own truth. Like a koan, like a parable, like an aphorism -- a thunderbolt of thought.


CLICK TO GET THE SHORT PRESENTATION OF THESE THOUGHTS  

 

Great for courses/teacher development and training. 

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#1 When you don't know, say so!

A teacher doesn't "know", a teacher "is". The greatest teachers are humble and learn to say they don't know and in doing so, let their students join them on the journey of thought rather than keeping them as spectators as the train roars bye.

Wise teachers do not hesitate to say, "Sorry, I don't know. Good question!"
#2 Teach your mouth to speak what is in your heart.

The essence of teaching is "emotion" -- the bottled wisdom and personal digestion of experience on the part of the teacher. Knowledge devoid of this is but gristle we would chew up. Knowledge imparted with this is energy and life for those receiving.
There is nothing "dry" about good teaching.
#3 Teaching is the art of asking the right questions.

Ask the right question and only then, the answer, the "good" will appear.

In teaching, we should ask these 3 ancient questions of all our acts, all our lessons.

1. Is it true? (be in the good)
2. Is it necessary? (don't waste time)
3. Is it kind? ( be personal, have voice)

If we pass through these gates in our teaching -- we are participating in the Socratic notion of "the good". Let no day pass without thinking of this good - so said Socrates when asked for his own philosophy.
#4 First you must master all the laws, then you can break them.

Students need to master fundamentals. Then, they can break all the rules and create "their own" , be "their own". First, we must organize and plan and proceed. Once mastered, we can then lend the world beauty through creative disorder. No artist ever drew a great painting without first learning how to hold the brush or draw a straight line.....
David, it is hard not to tease you on this one... no artist ever drew a great painting...quite correct! But going with your flow, many great painters could not draw*... too bad I can't remember any examples! But this info was garnered in a very reputable art history course I took many years ago.

Drawing (as in illustrating) is a simple skill to learn. The fundamental part is "seeing" what is actually there, instead of relying on the "symbol" your mind makes. For example, first try to draw an object, or reproduce a line drawing from a book. Kind of hard if you are not in practice, and you probably will be disappointed with your results. Now take the object or drawing you are trying to reproduce and turn it upside down- your results will be much more accurate. The first time you do this, it will astound you! What we "think" is there interferes with our ability to see what is "actually" there. I am sure this can be applied to life in general.

Of course there are tips, tricks and techniques that can help you- shading, perspective, and such- but the basics are there every time you pick up a pencil. Anyone that can see can learn to draw. What amazes me is when people draw out of their imagination- it is like the difference between writing non-fiction, and creating a fictional story. This probably correlates to life and teaching too... there is something more (and more difficult to grasp, hold down and identify) than the curriculum we teach in every class and lesson.

Last comment- all rules do not have to be mastered before you can start breaking them. In fact, I think we start creatively manipulating knowledge as soon as we have grasped it, probably even as we are grasping it. (You have been in Korea a long time- and I am a smart ass :D )

*hmm, this statement seems to contradict my following statement that anyone can learn to draw... ok, I guess they all could draw if they wanted to :D Not all great painters DID draw, and some felt as though they couldn't, because they didn't have me as a fourth grade teacher.
Ellen,

Interesting to read and have you ever read "My name is Asher Lev" ? Chaim Potok is a fav. writer of mine and he touches on all you wrote and more...

I think we are coming at things from different ends. You are more occidental in approach and my own perception of life/grace is a little less deterministic. Like Eliot would say, to paraphrase, "we think and dream in one world and do and die in another..."

This reading from and on the Tao seems to say what I'm trying to say. Sometimes two different things can be the same! It is what is hidden that is important.

To experience without intention is to sense the world;
To experience with intention is to anticipate the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;
Their construction differs but their effect is the same.


Painting is indeed an act of seeing and an act of grace. But to get there, you still need to know the rules. Not rules strictly as in how to hold a brush, which way to stroke, how hard/soft, ways to mix paint. No. The rules I mean are those understandings that keep us "related" to the world. Experience if well reflected on, if well drunk, gives us such. We cannot paint without this a priori.

Picasso said something I've always pondered and been fired by -- " I do not seek, I find." I think the key to his thought is that he didn't go against the current but allowed himself to go with it, to move and not struggle.....

Hopefully I've made a little sense...

David
#5 There are always two ways forward.

When teaching (or learning, the flip image), there are always two ways forward. Struggle and effort, striving and "working" AND relaxing, letting go, finding flow.

When teaching seek the right moment. There are times to sweat and attack the mountain. There are times to sit on the bench and enjoy the view. Both are a way " forward".
Hi David- I have to think some more about what you've written, but I wanted you to know that I read it and am thinking about it. When I teach, really teach, what you write about is what I experience-

To experience without intention is to sense the world;
To experience with intention is to anticipate the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;

-it is like being in the flow of creative love... but when I step outside of that environment, an environment that I have made safe in some essential way, I struggle and fight with "the too rough fingers of the world" (Langston Hughes)...

Anyway, that's me... no big philosophy behind it, just how I've experienced things. I have not read Potok. Maybe I will read a little and see more of what you are saying :)
First, do no harm.

We are vulnerable when we are in the moments of learning. It is like when we learn, when we open ourselves to the ideas of another, we are agreeing to go down this path with her, to at least for the moment suspend our own beliefs or perceptions, and allow ourselves to think with her, allow ourselves to try to think her thoughts, so we can see where she is going. And in this state, when in some essential way we have given ourselves over to another, we can be devastated by judgments or harsh words. Third graders who come into fourth honestly believing they don’t have an aptitude for math… college students who still believe they can’t write because of careless (and even intentionally mean) comments by their sixth grade teacher. A teacher must, as deeply and as fully as she can, keep the best interests of her students in her heart… beyond her own ego and need for gratification, more important to her than the opinion of her administrator or of any rule that is imposed from outside the teacher/ student relationship. Trust, and being trustworthy, is the basis of a healthy teaching/ learning relationship. It’s an honor when another human being allows you to teach them.
Ellen,

Absolutely! It is something one acquires with experience and I mean so not just as a teacher but as a human being. This is a biggee. Life is precious and we should continue to try and remove the "automatism" that we so quickly fall into - from destroying, hurting or damaging the vitality within us all. Sort of like the concept of "Grok" from another book I loved - "Stranger in a strange land" by Heinlein. A very religious novel but in a very different way..... Asher Lev isn't any hard read, about a boy becoming an artist and a man....

David
#6 Enjoyment is not expensive. Happiness and contentment is within and all around.

Sometimes, we think and equate "education" with money and reputation. Harvard means you are "better" than "Xia city college". A day at the local amusement park is "better" than a walk down the local ravine. Nothing could be more "illusional".

Value is from the process within. We are actors in our own lives, not heads stuffed full of straw. As teachers, we have to allow our students to see this natural disposition for "self fulfillment" and help them strengthen it. It is not that small or even bigger is better. It is not excitement or even flash that is better. What is "better" is that which awakens us, engages our minds and makes us part of the beauty of life. We teachers are "those that awaken" the tao - one hand clapping....
Beautifully put, David. That is the challenge and meaning in teaching- to put all of ourselves, as best we are able to, for those moments and hours, into trying to facilitate that awakening, engagement, and inclusion/ wholeness with the beauty of life. That's what makes teaching so compelling an activity : )

I've just sent my youngest off to college, and I wish I could put that compass you've laid out into each of his teachers heads/ hearts : ) I'm going to email them, it can't hurt!

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