Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach.
Those words were written by George Bernard Shaw in the early 1900’s. Aside from being a socialist, my guess is Mr. Shaw never sat in a classroom as a teacher. If he did, he may not have written something so disparaging and ignorant.
I’m not a teacher, though I have family members who are. However, in my second, semi-retired life, I have begun to do some substitute teaching, which, again, is not teaching. But I love kids and thought this might be fun. So what I know about actually working the profession can probably be placed inside a thimble.
I’ve heard countless stories over the years about parents and students. I’ve read comments made by elected officials who are so superficially clueless that it defies logic. I’ve sat in meetings with business leaders who have used this quote to drive home a point, insult the profession or attempt to stroke their own overinflated egos. This quote makes the rounds at parties, in boardrooms and homes. Sadly, it’s made by individuals who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Why? Because they’ve never sat in a classroom and unless you’ve done that, you can’t possibly understand.
You want to make the argument that teachers have two months off in the summer and another couple of weeks off during the school year? That’s true, though I know more teachers who work during the summer than sit at the beach, which is the general perception. The reason? They need to supplement their incomes by teaching summer classes, tutoring, coaching, doing clinics, working in retail, landscaping, or any other number of odd jobs.
Yes, they have a pension, if the system is still there when they choose to retire. But so do almost all government workers. You resent that? You should have chosen differently and not chased the dollar you knew you wouldn’t earn by teaching.
Short work day? You see, that’s where part of the ignorance comes in. Many teachers start at 7 or 8:00 and are there until 5 or 6:00 and then take work home with them. It’s also not unusual for work to be done on weekends or to receive calls from parents after hours. I see them come in each morning and leave each day. Their arms are filled with work.
I’ve seen teachers sit in a classroom with children who have autism and hold them until they calmed down; gently speaking with them, as if they were their own child.
I’ve seen teachers make themselves look silly in order to make a student laugh or feel better about themselves.
I’ve seen teachers make sure a child who is living in a hotel room with nine other people, care about how they might learn in that type of environment and then provide those students, on their own time, with the extra attention and help they need.
I’ve seen teachers take money out of their own pockets to buy a child a pair of sneakers or provide snacks or lunch during the day for those whose parents didn’t send any.
I’ve seen teachers shave their heads, along with their students, in order to raise money and awareness for cancer.
I’ve seen teachers try to work with a system that is intent on working against providing students the best possible opportunity to learn.
I’ve seen teachers work with students whose parents refuse to provide their child with prescribed medications, creating a difficult environment for an entire classroom.
I’ve seen teachers attempt to reason with parents who refuse to acknowledge hurtful or bullying behavior by their own child.
I’ve seen teachers understand and work with a children whose home life might be fractured and might need an outlet to express their frustrations.
Parents in prison in wealthy school districts, family illnesses, time dedicated to after school clubs, parents who are in denial about their child…the list goes on.
So you all want a piece of this…times twenty in each classroom?
Are there bad teachers? You bet. You want me to list the number of criminals in the business profession? Or any profession for that matter? Come on, lets not go there.
I’ve come to understand this one point, in the short time I’ve been a substitute. Teachers don’t teach because they want summers off or have a pension. And they certainly don’t teach for the money. It’s not that great. They chose this profession because they love kids. Your kids. It’s the only way they can do this job. You have to love kids.
So instead of giving them a hard time or making a derogatory remark, try to understand and see beyond whatever distorted perceptions are out there. I worked in the business world a long time and I understand why people want to teach.
It’s much more rewarding teaching children than working with adults who act like children.
The other day I was teaching a fourth grade PE class when a group of 4-5 girls walked up to me. I’ve been a substitute in their class several times in the past six months. Anyway, they were all giggling and then one of them asked if they could buy me. After I stopped laughing, I asked what they thought I was worth. They looked at each other for a moment, and then one of them said…priceless?
That’s when I knew I should have been a teacher.