Whether we know it or not, we’re all teachers. Some of us choose to do it for a living and get to call ourselves professional educators. The rest, especially parents, do it everyday for free.

I saw evidence of this earlier in the week as I watched my brothers, sisters and others interact with their children. Much of what I do everyday is working with classroom teachers and observing how they interact with their students. Watching my siblings with their kids was an incredibly powerful reminder of the amount of influence we as teachers, and parents, have on children.

My father was not a classroom teacher but somehow or another I managed to walk away learning a few things from him. A lot of us are busy pushing the idea of 21st century schools – the idea that our students are able to step out of the fake reality of K-12 education and enter the real world of 2008 successfully.

I’m beginning to believe that my dad was way ahead of his time. I was learning 21st century skills from him back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Art Wiebe 1926 - 2008

Art Wiebe 1926 - 2008

I learned that there’s always an answer to a problem – it’s just a matter of identifying the problem correctly. And not just any answer will work, it needs to be an “elegant” answer. An answer that fits just right.

But I also learned that perfect is the enemy of the good. That sometimes the best answer is the one right here, right now.

He taught me that working together is a good thing. Dad was my first example of how to create and use a personal learning network. Long before Facebook, Twitter or Plurk, my dad had a network of people he could go to for help. I remember riding with him as we drove out to the farm of a cousin or childhood friend or neighbor with some sort of a broken gadget in the back of the truck. I’d stand close and hand him tools as they worked together solving the problem.

But the cool thing was a week later, someone would be knocking on his door asking for advice or wanting to borrow some contraption he had made. I learned that giving was as important as asking.

I learned that there are very few things that can’t be held together (at least temporarily) with duct tape, wire and a few choice nuts and bolts.

I learned that the best way to go through life is with a sense of humor. He told me one time that

The world is a much brighter place when people can see your teeth.

We talk now about how teachers need to work at being “generalists” – people who feel comfortable in a lot of different content areas. I never saw Dad read that much but somehow he knew a ton of stuff – stuff that was useful and practical. I learned that you can (and should) master lots of things in lots of ways.

No. Dad was never a professional educator.

But he sure was a great teacher.