The Art of Teaching

I was reading the newspaper and ran across a quote that gave me pause and got me thinking. (Oh, geez, not again!)

Sir Ken Robinson, a British educator who moved to Los Angeles after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to education, was saying how schools today crank out students in an assembly-line fashion like Model T cars. We don’t let students discover their innate talents or what they love to do so they can be fulfilled in their life and career.

Sir Ken said with our focus on standardized tests we are “fostering a culture of conformity and compliance, and we’re undermining the quality of teaching. We’re reducing teachers to a delivery system when really, teaching is an art form.”

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? For one thing, such “skill and drill” can kill the desire to write beautiful prose. But more to the point, all writing – even this piece – has the option of being either a delivery system or an art form.

I often get the most feedback on my Tips of the Day when I hop up on my soapbox and speak, er, write from the heart, rather than spell out the dry definitions and categorize the parts of speech. (Those I generally have to look up, and I include them mainly to look like I know what I’m talking about.)

But think about it. When you are writing your weekly status report, you are teaching somebody what you did and why it’s important. You can do this in terse bullet points, or you can make it interesting – even exciting – so the reader will want to open the file to see the results of what you did last week.

How about when you are writing a scope of work or field development plan? The facilities should come alive in the reader’s mind as you describe all the parts and schedules and economics. And when you’re capturing best practices and rules of thumb, you can include the true stories about the successes and failures that put a face on the lessons learned, making them come alive.

When you are writing, you are teaching. And teaching should be an art form, not a delivery system.

Profound Quote of the Day:
“It is by teaching that we teach ourselves, by relating that we observe, by affirming that we examine, by showing that we look, by writing that we think, by pumping that we draw water into the well.”

– Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher, 1821-1881


2 Responses to “The Art of Teaching”

  1. petrocomputing Says:

    Cynthia emailed me the following comment:

    This is an excellent topic and thank you for reminding me of this. I am currently writing several reports, and quite frankly, I have been struggling with them. I will write with the “teaching” concept in mind and that will both stimulate me and help me get through the reports. I often forget when I am writing anymore that it should be more like a story to keep people interested in what I am saying; technical reports can be tough to write. I don’t want to write a novel, but I do want people to understand what I saw and evaluated so they can determine if it is something worth pursuing. One day I will need to meet you as I do enjoy your daily writing tips.

    I cannot agree more with Sir Ken Robinson on our school systems. It is funny because my husband and I were discussing this very topic over the weekend. Our daughter is in middle school and is worried about taking the new STAR test. I was recalling when we were children and taking the IOWA CATS test. We knew it was an exam and it was important, but I don’t ever recall having any pressure put on me besides the one I self inflicted. They stress these tests and only teach for these tests, cheating our children out of the opportunity to learn many interesting topics. Testing is important, but way too much emphasis is placed on them, including tying teachers to sticking to a curriculum that does not allow them to think outside of the box. I like that she is learning at a fast pace, but I wonder how much more enthusiastic they would be if they did not have all of these restrictions placed on them. Oh well, that’s my soap box! I wish someone in the [Texas] state legislature would listen, but I have given up on that cause!!!

    Have a great day, and thanks for all of your tips!

  2. Links for the Week | pidgeperry Says:

    […] The Art of Teaching at Technical Writing Tips for the Oil Patch […]

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