Back in 2017 I self-published a book entitled The Art of Teaching. As a “Self-Help” book, currently available in electronic form, and only forty-seven pages long, I had a hope it would jump-start some writing opportunities for me.
It did not.
When it comes to business I have a lot of weaknesses, not the least of which surrounds the concepts of marketing and exposure. I finished this book extremely proud of what I accomplished, but then fell into dismay when all my efforts in the next crucial step met resistance and emptiness.
Fast-forward to now, and nothing has really changed. So, in a new pursuit to provide some exposure to my book, I’ll be dedicating certain blogs to it. I’m going to go chapter by chapter and walk you through why I said what I did, why I felt this was important, etc.
At forty-seven pages most people wouldn’t think my book to actually provide much “self-help,” and I can understand that completely.
Let this initial post provide an introduction to the concept surrounding The Art of Teaching, why I chose to write it the way I did, and the inspirations behind the initial decision to create it.
I am a huge fan of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Like, a really big fan. I started reading it in high school—which surprised a lot of my teachers—and I still grab it from time to time to peruse, study, and ponder the wisdom it contains.
There are numerous copies of The Art of War, some with commentary, some without, most with different translations based on this/that expert’s understanding…My copy has commentary, and what I would consider a solid translation, but the size of the separation between the two is staggering. In my copy, Sun Tzu’s actual text is only fifty-three pages long, while the translation plus the commentary is just under two hundred pages.
I still marvel that a master of war could condense his entirety of learning and understanding into so few pages. For me, this is an epitome of mastery, and an example of how to convey information.
If one knows a subject so thoroughly, they can explain it so that a child could understand. But they also know not to ignorantly give away all their secrets. True discipleship requires a follow through and zeal for learning, not just the hope or desire for it.
So, somehow, Sun Tzu stuffed the art of war into fifty-three pages, it’s principles to be discovered by anyone willing to sacrifice the time to ponder and act upon it. Plus, while in our current day we don’t experience war in the same way he did, there are endless avenues of application for the matters discussed within.
This constitutes my first inspiration for writing The Art of Teaching. I’m fascinated at the level of competency and skill required to carry such an example that translates across thousands of years. One of my mottos is to have fun and help others look good. A good educator can accomplish this. Boy, I have a long way to go.
I by no means claim to be an expert on The Art of War, nor do I claim to know anything substantial about war with its vast reach. I do, however, claim to be a student, and I’ve found a wealth of knowledge in these words by exercising some patience, asking questions to myself, and working to proactively behave on any revelation that comes my way.
Along with this, I also don’t claim to be a master teacher. However, I do claim over two decades of experience in various educative capacities, which provides me confidence and competence in my abilities. It also keeps me hungry and wanting to learn more.
Herein lies the second biggest inspiration for writing my book, The Art of Teaching: the examples of amazing and abysmal teachers.
I feel blessed in many capacities. I can say that I’ve had some of the best teachers at home, growing up in grade school, in various extracurricular activities, religiously, and professionally. I don’t say this lightly, and many months ago I wrote a post on Facebook thanking these individuals publicly. I’ll provide a link to that should you feel inclined to divert your attention, and to read more about the specifics.
At home it was my mom. In karate it was a husband and wife duo who ran the studio. In grade school I had two, and in college I had one. Religiously I rely on God on Christ (I don’t trust a lot of men and women, especially not with my soul) and learning from and talking to them is incredible. When I began to learn film acting my coach taught more than just the art form. Professionally I can think of one, maybe two individuals who exemplified what a great leader looks like.
As for bad teachers, I’ve really only had one. My sixth grade teacher was a nightmare.
There have been incompetent, lazy, mediocre, ok, good, forgettable, and likable teachers galore in my past; I imagine this is the same as anyone else. While their direct imprints aren’t isolated in my memory, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge their incredible contributions to my growth and upbringing. For the most part, we don’t get to choose who comes into our lives, and that situation right there makes for interesting ways to pass the time.
I’m grateful to all my examples for giving me what I’ve needed to shape myself as I currently am, and I’m looking forward to what this allows in the future.
The third reason I wrote The Art of Teaching is due to my own experiences leading a classroom, combined with current trends I’m noticing in education that have me concerned.
You remember how I love Sun Tzu’s style of writing? I love it so much because he makes me earn what I’m learning. I have to work. I have to make mistakes. I have to practice. I have to exist in real time or I stay as I am.
I have to say it. Most of the students of our day and age hate this concept. Students feel entitled to what the teachers know, and teachers feel aggrandized by their own intelligence. The classroom is no longer a training ground for intellectuals, but rather a proving ground for subpar accomplishments.
I’ll explain more about this in later blogs as I go through my book.
As for my experience, I’ve taught in the martial arts for fifteen years, with students ranging in age from under ten years old to in their sixties.
In my religion, everyone is encouraged to participate in some form of volunteer work to keep things running. Men and women switch between teachers, clerks, management, janitorial services, and many more. We also alternate between speaking in our main worship services, so everyone can prepare something to share and edify the rest of the congregation with them. I’ve had too many of these opportunities over the years to list here.
I’ve taught formally at a high school, part-time, and learned what it’s like from that side of the teaching equation.
As a manager of an Improv Comedy Troupe for many years I was responsible for the overall quality of our performances, so I’d hold regular workshops and training sessions to improve and hone our craft. Along with this, I’ve coached various high school improv teams for the last five years.
Most of my experience is informal, but that doesn’t make it any less influential or viable. I’ve seen a lot, learned a lot, and faced my own hubris and imperfections more times than I can count. As a teacher, falling victim to pride is one of the most common outcomes. I work hard to stay humble, and constantly ask my peers for feedback and objective advice to keep me there. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
All of these things contribute to The Art of Teaching. I don’t want to provide answers, but the chance to uncover them. I would hope that any reader of my book would take the time to ask themselves questions, which lead them to new thoughts, which are infinite in their scope.
The Art of Teaching is a workbook built around the experience of whoever reads it. I’m not even hoping for people to agree with my words; being actively engaged and present is reward enough for me.