Amateur definition from Austin Kleon

Three Benefits of Being an Amateur

Amateur definition from Austin Kleon


This quote from Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work, continues to challenge me. Maybe it is because I strategically placed it on my desk, as if to watch over me, or maybe because it is just so divergent from the side of ourselves we prefer to show the world, but I can’t stop thinking about it. We show the world our finished products, our accolades, the gourmet dinners, and perfected presentations, but not the mess, the tears, the burnt chicken, and crumpled papers. We want to be thought of as anything but amateurs. Even if we are.


This is especially true in education where the question, “How long have you been teaching (or administrating)?” stems more often from a place of superiority and judgement than genuine curiosity. The wounds of this question (and the associated implications) are still healing from an academic intervention meeting, over five years ago.

Kleon’s definition, however, gives new hope for the amateur. Reflecting on his words, here are three benefits of being an amateur:

1. Amateurs are willing to experiment.  As a result, they often innovate without realizing it.

2. Amateurs haven’t already developed bad habits. As a result, they are coachable.

3. Amateurs bring love and joy to their work.  As a result, they inspire and encourage others.

With a new school year comes a whole round of new experiences and lots of folks who feel like amateurs. You might have a new position this year, be at a new school, in a new state, be a brand new teacher, or at least have a new teacher on your campus. Instead of focusing on all the things amateurs have yet to learn, let’s adopt Kleon’s definition and embrace the amateur. Starting off the year as enthusiasts who approach our work with a spirit of love certainly can’t hurt.

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