We all know how that familiar idiom ends. It is terrible to admit, but when I was not a teacher, I was guilty of saying it, and probably at some level believed it. Why my teacher friends at the time tolerated my use of the idiom and did not slug me is unclear.
After only my first few weeks of teaching, I fully understood how false the idiom is. Of all the jobs I have worked at over the years, there is not one that I have had that was as all consuming and physically and mentally draining as that of a classroom teacher. That is not the main point of this post. Teachers reading already know challenging the profession of teaching is and how ignorant the idiom is.
My concern is what our education policymakers actually believe. They certainly pay lip service to the notion of how demanding the profession of teacher is and publicly are respectful of the job of a teacher. But deep down, if they believed what they say in public, I do not feel that we would have the culture of mistrust that exists between teachers and policymakers in our current system. There would not be the excessive standardized testing mandated by whichever acronym-laden education policy is in place. There would not be the notion that the test scores from those standardized exams could or should be used to determine the effectiveness and evaluation of individual teachers.
Why are the Khan Academy videos so well received? Sal Khan is not trained as a teacher, does not use a script and admits "I don't know what I am going to say half the time". Is it possible that it is so widely acclaimed because his work verifies a deep-seated belief that people that have never taught hold? I am embarrassed to admit that I once sort of believed it. Those who can do..... "see Martha.... Sal Khan did it! And he did not need to be trained or any of that nonsense!"
The second half of the idiom - .....those who can't teach - may be more deeply felt among the general populace and our policymakers than we as teachers might be able to imagine. I surely hope I am incorrect.