Teaching Is Its Own Art

Food for Thought

Just to be clear (because some Instagrammers got confused), this is a spoof; I’m not actually teaching a MasterClass on philosophical food Instagramming.

Unfortunately, pedagogical talent is severely underrated, particularly, it seems, in the US. If we really wanted to learn something, we should be flocking to famous teachers, not famous artists, chefs, writers, filmmakers, architects, musicians, or photographers. The best basketball player does not make the best coach. Just because someone knows how to do something well, doesn’t mean he understands how he does it. It’s like expecting patients to know how to cure their own diseases better than doctors do just because it’s their own bodies.

The reason the talent for art does not automatically translate to talent for teaching, I believe, is that the audience is different. As an artist, you connect with your audience in a specific way. Often you don’t have a choice; you connect with who you connect with. It’s like a romantic relationship; you don’t have control over who you fall in love with.

The readers of, say, David Sedaris aren’t the same as the writers who admire his work. Even if you are an aspiring writer who loves his work, your relationship to him as a reader is different from your relationship to him as a writer. Just because Sedaris knows how to connect with his readers, doesn’t mean he knows how to connect with writers. A teacher connects with a specific audience whose objective is to learn, not to be entertained. We cannot underestimate the uniqueness of these connections.

This is the same reason you should “never meet your heroes,” because the connection you establish with someone through a specific medium rarely translates to other mediums, including face-to-face meetings.

It might be tempting to believe that the talent of famous artists can somehow rub off on you if you take their classes, but it’s that very expectation that would prevent you from becoming an artist of your own. To be an artist is to find and be yourself. It doesn’t come from elsewhere, but from within yourself.