I love this by John Holt, transcribed by my buddy Austin Kleon:
You learn to teach by teaching. I never had any educational training, luckily. I say “luckily” because I went into the classroom knowing that I didn’t know anything, and therefore realizing that if I wanted to learn something, I’d better keep my eyes and ears open and think about what I was seeing and hearing. The only way you learn about teaching is to do it and to see which of your inputs into this environment produce helpful results and which don’t, and maybe to talk about your problems with other teachers and say, “How are you making out?”
I would just add one point: What you can do might be something different than what another teacher can do.
Many years ago, I was asked to observe the teaching of one of my colleagues, Christina Bieber Lake. I walked into her classroom, saw 32 students, and thought Hmmm, I wonder how she’s going to handle this. I thought that because I knew that Christina strongly preferred leading discussions to lecturing, and how do you manage a discussion with that many people in the room?
The answer was: Easily. The conversation flowed both smoothly and energetically, and in the one-hour-plus-change that I sat in the back of the room, 27 of the 32 students spoke up — without prompting. I think my jaw literally dropped. My first thought was: I want to teach that way.
But upon some reflection I had a second thought: I don’t think I can teach that way. I realized that just don’t have the skills, or, maybe more accurately, the feel for the thing. Now, to be sure, I knew I could be better at leading discussions. But I wasn’t going to be a better teacher by trying to imitate Christina, even if I could learn from her.
I often think of something Bob Dylan once said:
I’d like to drive a race car on the Indianapolis track. I’d like to kick a field goal in an NFL football game. I’d like to be able to hit a hundred-mile-an-hour baseball. But you have to know your place. There might be some things that are beyond your talents. Everything worth doing takes time. You have to write a hundred bad songs before you write one good one. And you have to sacrifice a lot of things that you might not be prepared for. Like it or not, you are in this alone and have to follow your own star.