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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Those who can't

There's a saying among non-educators, “Those who can't do, teach.”

It's a very loaded phrase that's mostly used to denigrate teachers. Perhaps there have been some examples of this along the way that lead people to believe this. There are also examples of the inverse of this phrase. Not everyone that can do, can teach. Albert Einstein did not accept this standard saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

The “can't do” phrase has some built-in assumptions: (1) teaching and doing are different things, and (2) those different things are mutually exclusive. Many times doing is a part of teaching and one of the most effective methods.

Some people are blessed with an ability to learn from others, and pass along that information to students. Should their learning be discounted simply because they are a messenger and not a master of something?

Teaching involves not just conveying the content of the material they're teaching, but also establishing and building a teaching relationship their students. A tutor has to figure out where his student is in order to chart and help them navigate a path to where they want to be. A classroom teacher must be able to manage the students in that class in addition to conveying the content they're hired to teach.

It is these relationships that students of the most dedicated teachers most appreciate after their education, sometimes for years or for a lifetime. Those relationships come not from the “doing” part of the content, but from the relating part of teaching, meeting their students where they are at, and encouraging them along a path of accomplishment and achievement.

In the business world, people often find it's cheaper and more effective to buy something or hire someone else than to do something themselves. No one says, “Those who can't do, buy,” or “Those who can't do, hire.” Greater efficiency is both acceptable and laudable.

The very fact that this idea doesn't translate well to teaching is a testament to how different teaching is from other commercial endeavors. Efficient education is not about how well or efficiently material is produced, but on how well students learn something.

Teaching is not just about pouring information into students, but about sparking a desire within students to learn more. How many people do that?

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