We are ALL teachers (ALL THE TIME)

“If you put a violin in the hands of a needy child, that child will not pick up a gun” Jose Antonio Abreu

You’re a teacher. They’re teachers over there. He’s a teacher, they’re a teacher, she’s a TEACHER!

Choose yours:

1. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”


2. “If you want to learn something, teach it”

I know which one I prefer (2), and why. (I’m still sore remembering that (1) is from George Bernard Shaw however, here is an eloquent dissection). This view of the teaching profession is NOT NEW!

I’ve had both said to me in my time, but I hear the first one more often. It’s usually old blokes about my dad’s age. Sometimes they’re actually smart people and it’s a surprise to hear them say it. I had a version said recently on a Clubhouse call. This particular one ought to have known better, seeing as he’d boasted how he’d bent the rules and his contacts list to get his daughter into a fancy uni (which he was now slagging off the teachers at!).

I just finished marking a batch of Level 6 Undergraduate papers on Personal Development. (I’m currently in a vortex of marking which is common at this time of year for me and my colleagues). They were pretty good too. All Johari Windows and Pomodoro Techniques. Some really solid work.

One thing that caught my attention was the amount of reluctant mentions that “if it doesn’t work out I can try teaching”. (These are all would be vocalists, bassists, drummers, guitarists, music business types or event managers). Many did admit that they’d need to train to do it. Phew!

I have to confess I found it a little disappointing to see teaching being relegated to what someone might do if they don’t make a significant enough fist of what they “prefer” to do.

I know this feeling, and grappled with it for a time when I really started engaging seriously as an educator. I feel a bit daft for ever thinking that way, and now I’m very sensitive to noticing it in others. As if I’m noticing a past version of myself and I want to smack myself upside the head! There’s little worse than someone who doesn’t want to teach, as they see it somehow beneath them, finding themselves in front of a bunch of folks who want to learn. This is not setting up an optimal environment for learning to happen!

In music I notice a genre-specific attitude to this kind of thing: a Jazzer or a classical musician will always have had in their DNA, that a section of their professional life would include teaching. I have friends who really walk this line gracefully. Rockers and Popsters sometimes struggle more but I could also name some high quality operators who are equally comfortable playing/working at Wembley/Glastonbury as they are helping someone through some gnarly technique problem or theory. Of course it’s never so binary, but hopefully you get my drift.

We would do well to remember that whatever we do, we are setting an example somewhere, to someone.

Teaching them, in fact.

“Teacher. Know Thy Impact” John Hattie

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