Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teaching is an Art!

By: Bruce Knecht

Teaching certainly requires an array of skills. But if it is to rise above mere adequacy it must become something deeper. Then it becomes an art. Playing music requires a multiplicity of skills. That may be enough to make the performance workmanlike. But that alone won't ensure the result is musical. When teaching "sings", there is an artist at work... I'll say a bit more about why I think the idea of teaching as an art is powerful and liberating. For one thing, the notion that teaching can somehow be standardized becomes completely implausible when teaching is viewed as an art (of course, it would then follow that learning can't be standardized either). In that case, the entire education "reform" effort at least since NCLB is misguided…an exercise in futility!  
That also means studying "best practices," while useful, is a long way from sufficient. Art students can learn something of value by working in Renoir's an exercise. But if that's where they stop, they've really missed the boat. A teacher's most powerful resource, like that of any artist, is her individuality. A great teacher develops that individuality until she can use it like a well-tuned instrument. Of course, that takes tremendous discipline, insight, and imagination. It's damnably difficult but it gives us all something to work toward…a hell of a lot more inspiring than the gobbledygook of Common Core, college and career readiness, canned Pearson lessons, etc. It may be that every average teacher is about the same as every other average teacher. But every great teacher, like every great artist, is great in her own way.

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