the craft of teaching

Where the Masterpiece of Learning Really Starts

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.

He yelled,

“Paganini and one string!”

Paganini proceeded to wow them with the entire piece played on just one string.

His audience marveled. But no one left the theater and redesigned the violin to have one string. 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 watch for masters. Audience, take note! That one app or tool 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.

Some pitches are like this. Imagine a person walking on stage after Paganini finished his piece. He pushes Paganini off the stage and grabs his one-stringed violin. He holds it high above his head.

“Kneel to the string,” he says. “Pay homage to its greatness.”

The audience would give him a vacant stare.

That string was just a string. The master had left the stage.

There is a method of the master teacher. A way to play any teaching device that allows exquisite learning to happen.



As for me, I shall not worship the string.

I shall pay respect 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.

Advancement of an art requires instruction of the novices– a transfer of the craft from one generation to the next.

When there are new instruments, we need new pedagogies. We need new masters.

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.

How can you have a better substitute teacher?

The answer: start with a great sub-manual or sub-tub.

To get you started, I'll send you a copy of the table of contents for my substitute teacher manual.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Irene Fenswick April 15, 2016 - 4:22 pm

Great post! It’s worth being bookmarked and shared.

Vicki Davis April 15, 2016 - 9:15 pm

Thank you!


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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere
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