In The Seven Laws of Teaching, John Milton Gregory’s little gem of a template for the art of teaching, Gregory takes on the apparent conflict between “inspired” teaching and a systematic, ordered approach to it. Early in the book, he states that “Unreflecting superintendents and school boards often prefer enthusiastic teachers to those who are simply well-educated or experienced.” This rings true, as many of us who became teachers envisioned ourselves inspiring our students in the manner of Keating from Dead Poets Society or JaimeEscalante from Stand and Deliver.
Depictions of inspiring teachers in films and novels seem to suggest that the teacher’s effectiveness is born of a charismatic (and often enigmatic) personality. I think Gregory would take issue with this. Gregory, in contrast, roots inspiration squarely in knowledge. In fact, his first “law” of teaching is this: the teacher must know that which he would teach. Just as creativity begins with careful study and disciplined practice, an effective and inspiring teacher must diligently work to master his material.