When I was growing up, the local community college offered all sorts of fun classes for children during the summertime to keep kids interested in learning. My mom insisted that we attend classes of our choosing. One year, my brother enrolled in an art class to learn how to draw cartoon characters. Unfortunately, the instructor could not draw very well.
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I remember finding out that the teacher had very little talent. Mom and I were sitting on the floor outside the art room waiting for the class to end. The classroom door was open and we watched as the instructor taught- drawing on the white board at the head of the room as he did so. Mom rolled her eyes and leaned toward me, “Well I could do better than that!” she exclaimed.
And I knew she was right! Moms are always right. I internalized her observation, waiting in anticipation for her to get up and tell the teacher he was doing it wrong. She didn’t.
All summer long I was so embarrassed for that teacher! My mom could draw better than him and he didn’t even know that! Maybe he actually thought he was good at drawing because no one had been kind enough to tell him he was awful!
My little, narrow view of the world was that only the very best ought to be teaching. And those who weren’t the best should probably go hide under a rock.
Now that I am grown with children of my own, I think back on that experience and applaud the art teacher. Maybe he wasn’t a great artist. Maybe my mom could draw better than he- I found her portfolio in the garage once; evidence of the hours she had spent taking classes and sketching beautiful portraits before her free time gave way to the responsibilities of motherhood- she had been very good. But I applaud him, because he was the one doing the teaching.
Opportunity is reserved for those who seek it. I like to imagine that the art teacher taught those summer classes because he thoroughly enjoyed it. I am sure that no one was more acutely aware of his flaws and shortcomings, than he. Nor was he ignorant to the talented people around him.
But he refused to hide under a rock, as my little- kid- self figured untalented adults should do. He knew that setting down his pencil just because he wasn’t the best at drawing wouldn’t bring him happiness.
He also knew that practicing in secret, waiting for the day when he became the best artist around to seek out a teaching position wasn’t necessary. By doing what he loved- drawing and teaching others how to draw- this mediocre artist taught a valuable lesson in following his dreams.