I've heard this my entire life. And it couldn't be more wrong.
Now, I know that the headline of this post may be taken a number of different ways, from downright insulting to blissfully idealistic. And frankly, once it leaves this keyboard I can't control how you take it. But hear me out.
When you think back to the most influential "teachers" in your life, or even more broadly, to the most impressionable moments in your life, what do they have in common? For me, the connecting thread is learning through doing. And we're seeing a number of examples of this in today's world of higher education.
University of Northern Texas just opened a vegan-only cafeteria on campus. The change came in response to growing student requests for more vegan options. "It's not us changing it," Botts said. "It's us listening to the students on what they want in dining."
Trending, yes? Vegan is the new black. Or as my sister says, organic is the new Kosher. But beyond debate are the health benefits and the role these foods play in being part of the solution – not the problem. UNT is walking the talk. They're not only supplying based on demand, they are teaching through doing.
Carl Schroeder, a 19-year-old sophomore from Los Angeles, said he didn't know whether the change was a good idea at first, but he was won over by the spinach lasagna and an avocado sandwich. He said he likes having a healthy food option. "I'm not a big meat eater, but I'm not vegetarian," he said.
Carl may not have chosen a vegan restaurant on his own, but his exposure to it at school has taught him a new perspective.
The University of Vermont is teaching through doing, too, through its new Food Systems area of study, which provides students with an in-depth look at every aspect of life touched by the food on their plates. And UVM is literally serving it up in its cafeteria with meals inspired by a diet program developed by a UVM professor of nutrition. Now, anyone on campus can access a healthy meal option – and learn why it’s healthy.
I think these examples are perfect intersections of doing AND teaching. The key ingredient is listening, and, in doing so responding to what people want and even showing some people that they don't know what they don't know – until they know it.
We do it in our schools, we do it in our private lives – we do it in marketing. At least good marketers do, and we call it network branding.
I'd like to propose a new phrase: those who do, teach...and actually inspire.