To Teach or Not to Teach I

“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Much of what I say gets taken out of context.

Much of what I say gets taken out of context.

WTF George Bernard Shaw?

I’ve always hated that quote.

I remember my Dad using it regularly as a truism about who would become successful and who wouldn’t in creative pursuits… and it was always used derisively – like somehow teaching meant you’d failed at life.

Nice lesson Dad.

On the surface it seems true – if you can’t make it in your field doing it, you teach.

But.. that’s just all manner of bullshit.

First, there’s the myths about teaching

“Oh… you’ve failed at your career path – so just go teach. Teaching jobs are like ants at a picnic – just close your eyes you’ll trip over all the abundant teaching jobs out there. Oh, and for sure they’ll hire you with zero teaching experience.”

“Cause teaching is easy and anyone can do it.”


Seriously wrong.

Marianne Broome teaching one of her many popular classes.

Marianne Broome teaching one of her many popular classes.

Teaching is exhausting and requires a giving of energy and attention not required in very many careers. It’s similar to parenting in that you’re attempting to communicate skills and lessons AND be supportive and encouraging and nurture the students’ desire to learn and grow and accept the failures and bumps that come along with the path of learning a new skill.

This is SO not a walk in the park.

The presupposition that teaching is a “fall back” position that “anyone” can do is just a big fat lie.

Teaching/instructor positions in the public and private sectors are highly sought after and competitive.

You may gain a position as an instructor based on a good portfolio of work – but you will NOT retain that position unless you are a good teacher.

Good teachers fill classes and get return students. Period.

Misunderstanding the source

***WARNING: I’m going to take out my English degree to walk around the park on this one.***

Man+Superman“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Is a quote from “Maxims for Revolutionists” in the play, Man & Superman, 1903 by George Bernard Shaw.

Without knowing the source, misunderstanding this quote to mean teaching is a fall-back, secondary, less valuable “failure” position is easy to make.

However, the themes & intention of Man & Superman offer a different reading of this quote.

In the play, one of Shaw’s major themes is of humanity as sheep. Doing what they’re told, following the prescribed letter and pathways laid out before them – never changing, never improving, never evolving.

Shaw believed a “Superman” was necessary to evolve humanity. The Superman is unpredictable, grows beyond what he’s taught and does what’s right.

Shaw is against education for it’s own sake. He’s opposed to sterile professors spending their days in passive intellectual masturbation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 12.30.14 PMShaw believed that education was for activity. That learning was for the purpose of doing and creating and acting upon the world, bettering the world – improving our circumstances.

The worst thing you could do in Shaw’s estimation, was to use your knowledge in an insular academic way – study for study’s sake, without an application in the real world.

He was skeptical of academia: “A learned man is an idler who kills time with study.” and believed that “activity is the only road to knowledge.”

Shaw wasn’t dismissive of teachers or learning skills. He wanted to see improvements come from education – not empty letters and sterile academia.

If you know what you’ve learned – do it. Offer it to humanity. Improve us, evolve us as a species.

Hence – he who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.

Creepy-ass Maxims

Not everything Shaw wrote was amazing pants.

In “Maxims…” there’s a section titled “How to Beat Children”. Yay.

  • “If you strike a child, take care that you strike it in anger…” – because you better be angry when you hit them. Don’t hit them when you’re not angry – that’s worse.
  • “Those who minister to poverty & disease are accomplices in the two worst of all crimes.” ‘Cuz you better just let the poor and sick die – you’re not a fan of evolution if you’re helping along the sickies.
  • “Every man over forty is a scoundrel.” Oh, okay. Ummmm…

Not everything he said was so hot – so why take one quote and turn it into a truth?

The facts

Teaching takes guts and strength and frankly, some people really suck at it.

It’s not for everyone – but some of the most successful artists in this century include teaching as an integral part of their art business model.

They teach – not because they have to – but because they love it.

It’s fulfilling work. It creates an intimate community and audience and it’s just good business.

In “How to Grow Your Art Biz by Teaching”, Marianne Broome and I discuss all the ways that teaching can grow your art biz, grow your audience, exposure and sales.

Marianne talks about her own teaching path, how she’s been able to get past the major hurdles to teaching as a professional artist, such as time from the studio, and the problem of copyists.

If you’d like more info on “How to Grow Your Art Biz by Teaching”, click the link.

Or if you’re ready, you can buy now and get started.

MarianneCoverMarianne generously shares her 20 years experience of Montessori teaching & years of working as a full time painter in our audio class.

She provides 80 minutes of in-depth information on how to use teaching art as a foundation in building a successful art business.


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