Anyone Can Teach
A few days back, when I suggested on social media that parents are perfectly capable of teaching their own children, I didn’t realize how controversial my opinion was. I was bombarded with replies telling me I was clueless, that the American public as a whole lacks intelligence, and that I should leave teaching to the experts. The thing is, speaking as an educator with two degrees of my own – and the mountain of student debt to prove it – I stand by my above statement. Anyone can teach.
Okay, so maybe not everyone can teach 30 children at once. A person must be gifted with patience for that situation – patience, not teaching. My point remains, everyone has the ability to teach at least one person – themselves. That’s right; you have the ability to teach yourself, and the fact that we as a society have forgotten this is deeply distressing to me.
When I was young I used to watch a lot of shows with my parents, and one of our favorites was called The Pretender. The premise was, to desperately oversimplify it, there was a genius who would teach himself different professions and blend in to basically solve crimes. Once
I told my mom that I wish I could do that, be smart enough to teach myself all kinds of skills. Mom told me that I already had that ability. She said once you know how to read, there is no limit to what you can teach yourself. That instilled in me not only a deep love for reading, but also a love for learning because I knew I didn’t need to wait for someone to teach me. I could teach myself.
As an educator I’ve taken so many different courses on curriculum and teaching theory. I’ve learned so much jargon and methodologies, all basically trying to help me instill in my students intrinsic motivation. Why do they need intrinsic motivation? Because no matter how many years I spend in school learning how to teach, I will always be incapable of inserting knowledge into my students’ heads. That’s right, it took ten years of going to universities to learn that the only people who can make my students learn, are my students.
What do you think a classroom is? It doesn’t defy the space time continuum. Taking a class is asking someone else to create a situation where you are forced to teach yourself. Most, dare I say all, of your learning takes place when you engage with the source material. All that homework and assigned reading is there to force you to look at the source material and put it in your head. Writing assignments are designed to force you to think about what you read, and to think about it hard enough so that you can not only paraphrase it but ask questions and expand upon it. No one is putting that new information in your head but you. School is literally trying to force you to teach yourself. Intrinsic motivation; that is what all my education classes stressed and wanted me to create within my students. If you want to learn, you will learn, with or without a classroom.
I am deeply saddened that this isn’t common knowledge. That there are so many people out there who believe you need to be an expert to teach. That as a parent I don’t have the ability to pick up the kindergarten curriculum and teach myself how to help my child engage in learning. I know for a fact I lack the patience to teach a room of 30 children – which is why I teach adults – but I also know I am perfectly capable of teaching a classroom of one, my son. If I lack knowledge in a given subject, I also know that I can find materials to teach myself. I’m not saying that teaching is easy. Learning something new is always going to be a challenge. I am saying that teaching is not brain surgery or rocket science or particle physics.
Yes, expertise has its place, but it doesn’t quite deserve the pedestal we’ve placed it on. Experts can be wrong. Not all experts have degrees. Your intelligence isn’t measured by how many degrees you have, and learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom.