Where the Masterpiece of Learning Really Starts

The art and craft of great teaching

the craft of teaching

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.

Pedagogy.

Craftsmanship.

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?

Small substitute

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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