Monday, July 23, 2012

Those who can do.....

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.


  1. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Frank. I, too, came to teaching as a second profession, but as the daughter of a teacher I always knew it was a demanding (and rewarding) profession.

    I don't think anyone can truly understand a job that they have not done, but I agree that teaching is a misunderstood and undervalued.

    Laura Coughlin

    1. Thank you for your comment Laura. It was a much more difficult adjustment to the profession for me than I had expected. Most times, especially when we get to step back and gain perspective on what it is we do, it is rewarding.

  2. Hello!
    Because teaching is so demanding (I have 7th grade LA/LIT), I have a journal that has become a scrapbook as well, of many funny or rewarding things that have happened in my years in 7th grade. I've got the Thank You notes that sounded so sincere, and I've got tales of students saying funny things, such as, "Oh, are those the nocturnal twins?!" and once in a blue moon, I'll pull it out to write something new, or tuck something away, and I'll see an older one. Makes me smile every time. Keep it up, and grab hold of the tiny rewards and the moments you can share a hearty laugh with a student. It makes it all worth it!

  3. Thanks for the comment and suggestion Joy. In fact, I read a thank you note yesterday afternoon from a student I had two years ago. It was so nice and it did indeed make me smile!