Learned Lesson

At the closing of Money & You, they threw one more thought-provocation at me that needed to be answered privately, in my weekend’s conference notebook: “If money were no object, and therefore not a concern of yours, what would you do? What would you contribute back to society, the world? What gift do you have to give that you would willingly give away if you didn’t have to worry about income obtained from doing so? When you know what that is, then answer to yourself – What is stopping you from doing this?”

It didn’t take me long to answer, and it surprised the hell out of me, as it wasn’t anything I had ever considered before in my life, which I guess was very clearly the objective. I simply wrote down “Teach.” As for what was stopping me from doing so - only the idea that it never occurred to me before to even try, so the only obstacle – even at that time – was just making myself available to do so. So I did. ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,’ is that all-too familiar phrase, from George Bernard Shaw’s 1903 drama series ‘Man and Superman,’ that’s become a consistent irritation to academics, and a constant reminder to me. And of course there are those who can do, and what they do, is teach. They would be teachers - and the great ones’ names you never forget, because there are truly few of them in your life. I wanted to return the favor in some way, but at that time in my life I only knew how 'to do', so therefore I could only teach you 'how'.

My first “How To” Class was teaching Intro To Macintosh at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, in the historic town of Dover, only to graduate and become an adjunct professor at The County College of Morris, teaching a studio class called Intro to QuarkXPress. It was stuff I knew, so all I had to do was show students how I learned what I know, and then they would know it too. 'Here’s how you do it. No, do it like this. Now you can do it yourself'. The one big exception being, unless of course the teacher doesn’t really know - at all. You can’t teach what you don’t know. I know.

Right near where The Sopranos fictitiously lived, there’s a small municipal airport, and just across the street from it there’s a small tan brick commercial building that had a computer school on the ground floor. When I say small, I’m talking about two conference rooms, which would disqualify itself from being classified as a one-room schoolhouse, complete with the business savvy schoolmarm owning and managing the entire operation. Maybe because she reminded me of Mrs. Englehardt, my fourth grade teacher at School Sixteen, or maybe because I needed the extra hundred bucks, but I stood in her office, after saying good night to my QuarkXPress 2 Class, and she convinced me that I could, and should, begin teaching Intro To PhotoShop. It would only be ninety-minutes a night, once a week, for six weeks, but for me, it was ten minutes too long. I told her straight-up, I do not know anything about PhotoShop, I teach Quark.

Standing in front of the class, none of whom I thought had any business learning the program, and no place I had any right to be in, I introduced myself, and had them open up PhotoShop on their computers. And, I’m out. That was all I knew. I was as unprepared for this as I was for my Bar Mitzvah, or any fourth grade oral book report. There was no way I was getting through one night, never mind the five to follow, I was out of content after merely introducing myself, followed immediately by my sincere apologies. I began, essentially, reciting my Bar Mitzvah speech after cluster-fucking my Haftorah.  “I’m sorry everyone, but I have no business being here tonight. I teach QuarkXPress not PhotoShop, and as this is a PhotoShop Class, I can not teach it to you. And no, there is no substitute teacher, so see Mrs. Englehardt for your full refunds.” I was done teaching what I don’t know to people who didn't know any better.


  • Gary Smith

    You taught a very important lesson in that short class

  • Michael Katz

    That was a surprise ending 🥴

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