Be it before you teach it…

I am sitting here researching and updating my presentation for the root cellar tours that I will be doing when I volunteer next week at Old Sturbridge Village.  That’s right, if you want to know anything about root cellars in early 19th Century New England, I’m the man.  As I was interpreting a diary I began to think…

If you attend the tech school in my district and want to be a plumber, you are taught by plumbers.  If you want to be a cook, you are taught by chefs.

If you go to the traditional high school in town and you want to be a writer, you are taught by someone who was taught how to teach writing.  If you want to be a historian you are taught by someone who was taught how to teach history.  You are usually not taught by a writer, a practicing historian, a scientist, or a mathematician.

Can teachers teach their “subject” without practicing it?

How can someone teach kids to write creatively if they never do any creative writing?  How can someone teach their kids to do critical research with primary sources if they never do it themselves?  I’m wondering if we could improve teaching not by hiring better “teachers,” but by hiring better mathamaticians, historians, scientists, and writers.

We could worry less about teaching, and more about showing.  Not only will the kids learn by example, but they will see real world applications of the skills and knowledge that we are telling them is important.  Is it easier to make a scientist a teacher, or a teacher a scientist?

I have been following a lot of debate on twitter this weekend on “changing schools.”  Staying out of it today I kind of aquired a new perspective.  In trying to make schools better are we like bakers trying to make a better apple pie.  The only problem is, all they have are blueberries.  Instead of working on the blueberries, maybe they should just go out and get appples.  Could changing schools be as simple as that?

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