On Teaching

An old employer of mine once mentioned that ‘Those that can, do — and those that can’t, teach”.

January 30, 2016

This was a thought that I have held myself in the past, due in some part to my own experience with educators that have seemed a bit out of touch. While it wasn’t the first time that I had heard this adage, this time around it was used by my employer with extreme derision, implying that educators are not in fact worthwhile contributors to the industry. This lead me to think about who taught him the skills that he used daily to make a living – it would seem from his comments that all the skills he used he learnt ‘on the job’.

While sometimes it can be said that a full time educator can be distanced from the ‘real’ experience of the industry they teach, it must be remembered that educating other human beings is not an easy task to undertake, and often requires unique skills that can be of tremendous value in the work place. Facilitation, negotiation and illustrating through story telling are just a few that come to mind.

Having recently finished teaching my third class of User Experience Design students at General Assembly, I took a moment to reflect on this position as I considered what I had learnt by instructing the new revamped syllabus. I have found in my own experience that teaching a subject that you know extremely well to others will in fact enhance your knowledge in that field. While learning ‘on the job’ is by no means a bad practice, it is something that takes a great deal of time and individual attention to achieve. Structured education such as classes acts a means to achieve the same results in a much shorter amount of time, to often a greater number of students. Teaching also allows the student to exercise critical thought which is not always available or even desirable in vocational training.

I am lucky to say that I no longer hold the afore mentioned view at all, and now believe that “Those that do, can with help, make the best teachers”

Read Next
Q+A with GA