Friday, July 16, 2010

A Kind of Expert

I guess you could say I found out this morning that I’m an expert at teaching English. Well, not really, but I did discover, while messing around in the dictionary, that the word “expert” derives from the Latin word for “try”. I picture medieval speakers of English saying something like this: “You have tried so hard to be an alchemist that you are now an expert – an advanced and superior tryer." Thinking along these lines, perhaps I could call myself an expert teacher, since I’ve tried fairly assiduously for a full 45 years. It occurs to me, actually, that this would be an excellent definition of an expert – one who simply tries, again and again and again. After all, who’s to say when someone actually knows all there is to know about a subject – especially a subject as maze-like as teaching teenagers? Calling someone an expert English teacher is like calling a cloud in the sky an expert cloud: both are silly and pointless statements. Teacherness and cloudness, if we can use those terms, are way too vast and multifaceted to be measured and evaluated. So we’re left with trying as a measure of expertise. If I continue to hike the steep and bewildering trails of teaching English, continue to take up the path each day with as much" devotion and ardor as I can gather, perhaps I can call myself, in some ways, an "expert teacher.

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