If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
–G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With The World (1910)
Why are teachers beavering away in their individual silos, each one of us spending hours reinventing each pedagogic wheel, crafting schemes of work and resources for the new GCSEs?
Wouldn’t life be so much easier and better if we simply shared…?
To which I say: NO!
To be honest, my favourite part of the job is designing, crafting and re-designing resources and teaching approaches. They’re not perfect, of course. I’m reminded of a line from the opening credits of South Park: “All celebrity voices are impersonated . . . poorly.” As Chesterton remarked, if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
But the point is, my approaches and resources are a lot less imperfect than they used to be. I flatter myself that, over the years, some of them have become . . . quite good. I believe Michael Stipe once said that in the entire history of the world there were only ever five rock and roll songs; and that REM could play two of them quite well. There’s a parallel in that most teachers have a lesson or two (or three) that they — and they alone — can teach brilliantly.
I often think that, given the right context, most students prefer shabby, bespoke individualism rather than shiny mass-produced perfection.
As teachers, I think we sometimes overestimate the impact that we have on our students. There is no royal road to learning, and neither can all our craft and pedagogic arts construct a conveyor belt either.
As educators, the most we can hope to do is clear a few stones out of the way of our charges as they set out on the rocky path to learning.
In the end, the journey is theirs. Let us wish them well as we watch from our silos . . .
The difficulty of obtaining knowledge is universally confessed [ . . .] to reposite in the intellectual treasury the numberless facts, experiments, apophthegms and positions, which must stand single in the memory, and of which none has any perceptible connexion with the rest, is a task which, though undertaken with ardour and pursued with diligence, must at last be left unfinished by the frailty of our nature.
Samuel Johnson, The Idler, 12 January 1760