The art and craft of great teaching
From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis
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Paganini was here to play his great work “Napoleon.” His violin glistened. As he broke every string. But one. He looked to his shocked audience and held up his violin.
“Paganini and one string!”
Paganini proceeded to wow them with the entire piece played on just one string.
While his audience marveled, no one left the theater and redesigned the violin with one string. The violin is still a violin although Paganini could play a masterpiece on one string. That is because Paganini is a master. Everyone in the audience knew that one string was not dripping with talent. Nor was that one string possessed. That one string was played. Played by a master. And so it sung.
There are master teachers. They can teach with just their voice. Or a stick. Or a book. Or a computer. Hand them one string and they’ll make learning sing. These craftsman teachers — they teach. Anyplace. Anytime. With anything.
And yet, we worship the string.
Certainly some strings are better than others. They are stronger. More resonant. Better tools. That is great. I’m all for great tools.
But we should not forget that the master is the one who plays the strings. People in the audience watching the teaching should know that one app or tool or feature is not dripping with talent. That one app is not possessed. That one tool was played. Played by a master. And so it unleashed the music of great learning.
Some people buy and sell strings. They talk about the music played on the string as if the string possesses the music. They hawk the masterpiece as if it lives in the string and can be played at will.
It would be like walking on stage after Paganini finished his piece. Pushing him off the stage. Grabbing his one-stringed violin. Holding it up high above our heads. And asking the audience to kneel to the one string. In homage of its greatness. That string was just a string. The master had left the stage.
There is a method of the master. A way to play the string that produces great music.
There is a method of the master teacher. A way to play any teaching device that allows exquisite learning to happen. Pedagogy. Craftsmanship.
As for me, I shall not worship the string.
I shall pay homage to the master teachers. For they are the great ones who orchestrate a symphony of learning.
Those who worship strings will find themselves in quiet company. Sitting around surrounded by quiet Chromebooks, iPads, and bills for downloaded apps. In boxes. Unused. Or broken. Misused. But not played for masterful learning.
The advancement of the art requires an honoring of the master craftsmen who know the trade. It requires instruction of the novices. A transfer of the craft from one generation to the next. Perhaps even new ways to play on new types of strings. But the art of playing must be celebrated.
Here’s to you great teachers. Those of us who play the tune of learning know where the masterpiece starts.
The masterpiece of learning starts with you — the teacher. Play on.