“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman 1903
This quote has been stated to me more than once in my career as a teacher. Usually, from people who do not know me and are quick acquaintances with passing introductions. Even a few students have thrown this quote my way usually when being taught Shakespeare’s plays.
“He who cannot teaches.” I have never taken this quote lightly. I was aware of this quote when I decided to pursue teaching in college. I also realized that teaching is not about the imparted knowledge of facts and figures; it’s about learning how to teach yourself as well as others.
When I first learned of Leonardo da Vinci, the artist, scientist, engineer, etc, the embodiment of a renaissance man. I was fascinated that a person could become great in so many different fields of study. Leonardo was naturally curious and needed patrons to fund his curiosity. When asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I could never really come to one conclusion until college. I wanted to do whatever interested me at the time. I wanted to explore knowledge and apply it. I too wanted to be a renaissance man.
As a teacher, I know better than anyone the limits in which I have been placed with state and common core standards, state testing, lobbyists, contractual agreements, teacher licensing, parent expectations, and student engagement. Every one of these entities has their own agenda and are at war with the others. It’s no wonder homeschooling is so appealing to many. Why do teachers begin to lose hope? After all, teachers are to be an inspiration among the tumultuous philosophical battle pulling on them from each different direction, demanding their subservience. I digress. Teaching is for the time being my patron.
I have mentioned this in an earlier post; I am returning to teach for my 16th year. I have no real significant retirement. I do not make tons of money, like other professions with the same degree and level of experience. I am constantly having to return to “trainings” to “improve” my teaching or pay for college classes out of my own pocket to remain a teacher. I have endured; most teachers, on average, last about three years before they quit.
Please do not think I am complaining; I’m not. I am just sharing facts and educating you on a small snapshot of what a teacher faces outside the classroom. I am happily returning to teach again this year. I realize every job out there has its challenges, and I am in no way discrediting that. However, the quote mentioned above… “He who cannot, teaches.”
I embrace being a learner for life; we all are. I enjoy learning new things, that interest me, just like my students. However, as a teacher, I also find that I am always on a tight budget. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” During our first years of marriage, the cars we owned had many mechanical issues, and we could not afford a mechanic’s rate to fix them. I purchased a manual, research a few other texts, bought some tools, and then I fixed the problem always at a fraction of the cost. I have trained myself through books, manuals, and questioning friends how to be an amateur mechanic, plumber, electrician, solar system installer, roofer, builder, logger, sailor, cook, poet, philosopher, teacher, small business owner, scientist, blogger, film editor (in progress), knowledgeable in power conservation and sustainable living, homesteader (always in progress), and I’m sure I am missing something else, but I think you get the point. I may not and probably will never achieve a professional level, and would probably be made fun of by the professionals in these fields. But, as a novice, I still enjoy learning and applying what I have learned.
I believe this quote, “he who cannot teaches” is highly inaccurate in my case. I believe because I teach; I can teach myself to do anything. Give me enough time and my amateur status would rise to a professional level. But, alas, I have but only one life to live. Another saying I also enjoy, “An amateur who cares about his work is better than a professional who doesn’t.”
I want to encourage everyone still reading this that we are all given a great gift and that is the ability to learn and learning allows us to become more than what we perceive ourselves to be. I am a strong believer in self-education. Once a person has the skills to read, research, and apply basic mathematics, he or she can teach themselves anything through our vast knowledge online, the local library shelves, videos, and through the trial and error approach. Everyone has the ability to teach themselves what they need and want to know. After all, America’s greatest inventor Thomas Edison was a self-educated man who had no formal high school education. If I could convey one message to my students, which I do try; believe me, it would be for them to teach themselves beyond what I am teaching. I can only cover so much material, and then it is ultimately up to the students to push themselves beyond the confines of the classroom walls.
Please share something you have taught yourself or are teaching yourself currently. I really would like to hear about it and also learn from your experiences as well.