There Is No Instruction Manual in Teaching . . . And That’s a Good Thing

Often, in working with pre-service teachers, someone will ask about the “right” way to do something. The educational system throws around words like “best practices” and “highly qualified,” but it doesn’t really work that way. There is no guidebook or instruction manual or how-to video for how to be a great teacher, because ultimately teaching is a craft.

The hard part is that it takes years to perfect. The process is often messy and confusing. There are so many moments where, as a teacher, you’ll doubt yourself. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll feel like improvement is slow. It’s harder, still, when you screw up. I still cringe at the moments when I yelled at a class or shamed a student and I’m still amazed at how quickly students forgave when I apologized.

And yet . . .

All of those mistakes were a part of learning the craft.

That’s the beauty of it. There is no instruction manual. There is no codified list of best practices. That means you get to explore like an astronaut. You get to experiment like a scientist. You get to design like an engineer. You get to make like an artist. Like any other craft, it takes a lifetime to perfect. There’s no point where you “have arrived.” But there shouldn’t be. As a creative teacher, you’re always exploring, always experimenting, always innovating.

I feel weird writing that, because I’m a professor and not a K-12 teacher. However, after teaching for three straight days and jotting down notes of what went well and what I would improve, I’m struck by the fact that I’m still learning this craft. I’m still growing. And it’s so fun.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

One response

  1. I can't agree with this analysis more. I find there are too many teachers who would rather be bound to someone else's ideology, someone else's expertise, and someone else's manual. I consider myself an eclectic educator, one who takes the best of all the above – the things that fit within my own "teaching personality" – and mold them into something that works better for my classroom. It is, as we say, both an art and a science, and I absolutely love the balancing act.

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