Neil Gaiman wrote something last week that is niggling the bejeezlebugs out of me.
“I’m fairly nervous about teaching at Clarion this year. I said no when asked for years, because I wasn’t sure what I had to teach anyone about writing. Mostly I figure I’m still figuring it out myself. I finally said yes, and I still don’t think I know enough to dare to actually teach anyone.”
While this statement certainly reflects Neil humility, it’s flabbergasting to me. If you ever get a chance to read his online journal or hear him speak in an interview, you’ll immediately sense that Neil is a natural teacher. What more is teaching than imparting what you know to someone else? And if you’re an interesting and memorable person, as Neil is, much of what you impart will stick with your students. I think that if you wait to teach until you know all you’re ever going to know about a particular topic, you’ll be in your grave, regretting the fact that you didn’t pass along what you could when you weren’t being a tasty meal for maggots.
And, if you still don’t believe you have enough knowledge to be a teacher, watch an infant and a toddler interact for a while. What you’ll notice is that the infant will continually keep his eyes on the toddler, soaking up whatever that toddler is doing with great intensity. The toddler doesn’t even know she’s teaching, but it’s happening nonetheless.
Share what you know. You don’t have to know it all.