Wax on, wax off

One thing that has been eating at me while writing the CELTA posts is not so much the how, but the why of this focus on structure and planning you find outlined below. I would not blame my co-trainees of suspecting I was slightly autistic; as for me, I was deeply impressed by how naturally teaching seemed to come to them.

So why the minute by minute micromanagement? Is it every disenchanting cooperate mission statement: “The benefits of continual improvement by identification and implementation of best practice…etc. ad nauseam.

Or a sales-pitch promise of the pre-fabricated lesson final solution for the desperate auxiliary, perhaps?  

Desperate for totalitarian control of the class?

An attempt to re-invent the rubber wheel of the silent approach via sheer CRM?

It struck me this morning.

Once upon a time, a Chinese master of calligraphy achieved such fame that the emperor himself decided to acquire a piece by his hand. He sent his henchmen to bring the master to the capital and commanded him to draw him a bird of such beauty as had never been seen before.

‘Very well,’ said the calligrapher, ‘send someone in a year to pick it up.’ The emperor wondered at this, but keen to get the piece, and artists being artists, he let the man go. After a year, an envoy was sent for the piece, but returned empty-handed with only a message to come back next year.

Angry, but with a war on his hands against the Mongols, the emperor conceded, and this would repeat itself year after year until the war finally ended and the now graying emperor could finally find time to deal with the renegade calligrapher. 

Furious, he traveled with his retinue to the master on the far side of the most distant misty mountains of China, made halt outside his reed cottage and hollered for the man to come out with the calligraphy of the Imperial bird on a branch or having his head removed from his shoulders.

The aging calligrapher walked slowly towards the aging emperor with a piece of rolled up parchment in one hand and dripping reed pen in the other. ‘Let me see it,’ hollered the Emperor, and gasps abounded when the man unrolled the empty scroll. ‘Is this a joke? Where is it?’ the emperor hissed. ‘Here’, said the master, and in the span of one breath and one stroke of his pen, he created an image of a bird of such astounding beauty and harmony as had not been seen in the history of Chinese calligraphy.

The emperor, to stunned to kill the man, mumbled: ‘It took you one breath and one stroke of the pen… why didn’t you just draw it when you were in my castle all those years ago?’ The man huddle back to his cottage and opened the door. There was not one space, nook or cranny not packed with sketches of that bird perched on a branch. ‘I was training, Sire.’


chinse branch



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