Funny thing, about life. The class/workshop I attended in Minneapolis was fantastic and inspiring. I think I will be processing it for a long time—a good thing, but also something that tends to exaggerate my introverted nature. My head is full of thoughts, but I have trouble knowing what to say. Add to that the fact that the morning after I got home, my husband left to attend the funeral of an important person in his life, and the fact that—wait, is Thanksgiving tomorrow? At my house? I’m not panicking. Really, I’m not. It’s just that I feel like I have both everything and nothing to say right now, and not much time to say it in. Then again, if I had more “time,” I’d probably have a lot less to say.
Back to the class. The teacher was Alison McGhee, lovely person and lovely writer for both children and adults, who just happens to have been my Chinese teacher for two years in high school. I knew the class would be good, and it was. Two things stood out, especially:
1) Nobody told me I was in over my head and should just go home (a silly thing to worry about, I suppose, but—hooray—nobody said it!)
2) There’s a lot that goes into being a good teacher, and this is what I really want to get at today. I learned a ton about writing picture books, but I also got some great insights into teaching. Alison’s generosity with the class really stood out. Whenever somebody shared an idea, she could see the magic in it. She didn’t just understand and nod and say “good job,” she could see the potential within and help everybody else see it.
Do you know that old saying, “Those who can’t, teach”? From what I can tell, it comes from George Bernard Shaw (“Man and Superman”: Revolutionist’s Handbook and Pocket Companion), although the exact quote is, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Way too cynical for my taste. Of course there are bad teachers out there. Anything good you can think of, there are examples of it being twisted into something so bad it shakes your faith in the thing itself. But I’ve seen good teachers in action, and been blessed to learn from a number of them, and I truly feel sorry for people who believe as Shaw does. There are teachers out there who can, and do—who know their craft inside and out, and on top of that have the ability to translate what they know into something they can share. Not only that, but they have the ability to see where to work and guide; they know how to judge what is most useful to do and when it is most useful to do it. Beyond that, they work with a generosity and humility that is guided by a deep love and respect for the student. They prove that teaching is an art, in and of itself. Believe me, those people exist. Seek them out.