The Special Sauce is not about Technique
Most adults can think back to a special teacher, one who impacted them in some valuable way. Big or small, the impact of this teacher (or teachers) is profound - they touched some key part of who we are, they spoke to us in a way that resonated with our inner self.
Who do you have in mind?
If we put all of these teachers in the same room together, the ones that connected most to me and the ones that connected most to you, we’d see that they’re quite different people with different teaching techniques.* Men, women, young, old, positive, irascible. Some were lecturers, some were lab scientists, some told jokes, some had impossibly high standards. There’d be almost no discernible similarity among them that would point to the “special sauce”, the way to have a meaningful impact on students.
The only clear similarity among them is that they’re all human. And so are we.
There’s something in who we are as living beings that allows us to connect with other living beings. The life and beauty and innate well-being in who I am acknowledging the life and beauty and innate well-being in who you are. This isn’t the key gap in education that I’m seeking to fill, but it is the way in, the way through the door, the access to filling the gap.
The special sauce in teaching is not about the technique. It’s not about the perfect lesson plan, the organized handouts, the classroom decorations, the pedagogical approach. Yes, those things matter, and they’re certainly ingredients of an effective, well-structured learning environment. But they’re not ingredients of the special sauce.
Instead, the special sauce is something much more special than technique. It’s ancient, universal, and grounded. This special sauce is infused in some way within the teaching. In fact, it comes from within the teacher. And it speaks to something within you.
The special sauce is a teacher’s capacity to awaken truth within us.*
And there's actually nothing "special" about it. It's a capacity we all have to tap into who we really are.
* So much gratitude to Parker Palmer for the ideas noted and these beautiful lines his book, The Courage to Teach: “The power of our mentors is not necessarily in the models of good teaching they gave us, models that may turn out to have little to do with who we are as teachers. Their power is in their capacity to awaken a truth within us.”
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