On Teaching and Self-Worth

This is an essay by Brandon Monk.

A post inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright: An Autobiography

It is no surprise that Frank Lloyd Wright had teachers in his family. A great teacher impacts generations. My grandmother had that talent while she lived. I have had more than fifty grown adults approach me in my lifetime and describe how she profoundly affected their lives by being their teacher. Uniformly though, the impact came by not only what she taught, but how seriously she took her responsibility to the betterment of her students’ lives. Reading about Frank Lloyd Wright reminds me of her impact.

A true teacher leads one to knowledge more than anything, even if that is through inspiration. For Wright, nature often served as a teacher, and experience serves to carry out the education. For Wright work was education.

For an architect during the Great Depression there were often no paying clients looking to build. Wright tested his ideas by creating a school, which was really more akin to a modern-day apprenticeship program.

The students worked at building and planning and became a self-sufficient entity. They grew their own food and mended their own clothes. Wright’s idea was that to design a kitchen one had to know how to work in one. He took this to the extreme by having his students work in every area he could imagine. Under the motto “do something while resting,” the school grew to stand for the idea that there is no substitute for getting right into the mix and working.

Where did Wright get the idea that this type of education would work? During the summer he spent time at his uncle’s farm doing the labor necessary to keep animals and humans in good health. Wright developed as a child under the idea that “work is an adventure that makes strong men and finishes weak ones.” For Wright, work was truly educational. But, I think he got something out of his teaching, too. Something that helped get him through the Great Depression. Teaching others boosts our own self-worth.

Sometimes hard work forced upon us is life changing. Hard work can provide the capacity to endure and create as an immediate result.  The greatest value, however, may come in the realization that the process of learning to work provides self-worth. You can take the next step and multiply the effect if you teach someone else the same process. I think the same holds true with reading, which is why we have such a responsibility to share our reading experiences with others.

Photo: Some rights reserved by mach3

2 thoughts on “On Teaching and Self-Worth

  1. What a great post. The idea of work as education is so simple, yet brilliant. I’ve always been a fan of Wright’s architecture. Now I’ll add his autobiography to my “books to read” list. Thanks!

    1. Read.Learn.Write says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. Writers certainly know something about this concept of doing work for free. In fact, Seth Godin has been talking about it some in the context of his blog and the free writing he does there. I like the idea, too. Sometimes doing is the best way to learn. Especially when you can’t find a way to get paid just yet. In tough economic times doing for free is better than doing nothing, I suppose.

      I visited his, Taliesin West, on a trip to Arizona and loved his work there. That actually spurred me to read the autobiography. I am now a huge fan.

      The biography is long, really three books in one, but well worth the read in my opinion.

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