By Matthew Olinski — There is a phrase I have heard in the past, and in the recent past, uttered by some people who are massively naïve about the teaching profession: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”
This is irritating on so many levels. I was reminded of it again this Sunday while watching the Sunday morning talk show pundits, many of whom are not fans of public education. One of the guests on this particular show was listed as “blogger” for his role or job, or whatever qualifications he had for being on that show on that Sunday morning. My first reactions was, “I’m a blogger, I’m at least as qualified, if not more, to talk about anything and everything they were discussing on this show”.
To be sure, being a social studies teacher, I keep up with current events as much as any of these pundits. The difference is when I have a discussion, I don’t load my class with people who support my side, or have the token opposition point who I can then lambast into admitting they are wrong. To be clear, I don’t take any point, and it is to my students’ ultimate frustration that they can not determine which political side I am on.
This idea got me thinking. I know in undergraduate school, at least in my experience, they would often talk about the different roles that teachers take. The traditional ones include counselor, coach, psychologist, defacto parent, role model. I was listening to the radio in the morning. I can do that. I do it every day. I probably do it better than these people (even though they entertain me) because I don’t get to go to “commercial break” or play a song, and I have to have a topic of substance. The radio stations are judged by how well they entertain based on listenership, but really, I’m doing this every day as well. We entertain. We have to, or we lose our audience. Ours audience is a great deal more important than those listening to radio. When they tune us out, it affects their future.
We have teachers in our building who bring vast amounts of experience in from the private sector. We have a chemistry teacher who brings his experience from the private sector and each year for the past 3 years now, has had his students, working in a partnership with a local beverage company, create a new flaor that is produced and goes on sale. The profits go towards a scholarship fund. We lead by example.
I kept seeing hash-tag “adworker” (#adworker) during the super bowl (oops can’t refer to it as that unless I pay the NFL). These people, and none of them had anything to do with these ads, were all taking credit for being such creative geniuses. They should come into my classroom and see some of the projects students have produced. First, they were more creative than the majority of commercials. Second, the students don’t do this as a full time job. We inspire.
It seems that instead of not being able to do, instead, we do what many others do on a daily basis, and for a more important audience, and we do it better. The teachers who are successful in this business (and I hate referring to it as that, but it has been abundantly clear that this is the way the public wants to refer to education now) have a great many skills that they bring into the classroom. In my opinion, they do it better.
Instead of thinking of the people in the classroom as those who can’t, think of them as the people who are doing. They are doing what a great many people could not do themselves.