Friday, September 7, 2007

Those Who Can't, Teach

Walt Whitman worked for a while as a teacher in series of windowless, poorly heated, one-room schoolhouses for almost no money. While teaching at one school, he wrote to a friend, "How tired and sick I am of this wretched, wretched hole! — ... O, damnation, damnation! Thy other name is school-teaching." --- from The Writer's Almanac

There's an old saying that goes, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, write." Or there is the other adage, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Though I don't always like my job (and who doesn't hate their job at times), I have a problem with people who believe this. In one aspect, I sometimes wish I could devote my entire day to my writing. I feel I would not only become better at it, but would eventually find a publisher and be able to sell my work. However, I have a family to support, and no guarantee that weeks and months and years of writing would produce a New York Times best seller, thus pulling me out of the grips of poverty. So I teach. People who have never taught have trouble understanding that it takes more than knowing something to teach it. I know a little bit about a lot of things, and a lot about some things, but getting in front of people who generally have no interest in what you are saying to begin with, and present this lesson of information in such a way to be both interesting and entertaining, is a daunting task. Then there is the issue of maintaining discipline in the classroom. Some teachers are such pushovers that students can get away with anything and, therefore, learn nothing. There are also some teachers that are so strict that flexibility and creativity are stifled and learning becomes a military drill that most students buckle under and give up. I would say that managing behavior and discipline in class is three-fourths the job of teaching in a public school, and if that can't be accomplished it doesn't matter how brilliant of a mind the person has. I can do any job that someone throws at me, and I have done many (dishwasher, busboy, pizza delivery, meat clerk, landscaping), but the hardest job I have ever worked at is what I am doing now, teaching. And its the hardest jobs that one must love in order to keep coming back to it day after day.

So as much as I agree with Whitman's sentiment above, I will have to say that I do "do." I live, I write, I teach.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I have been a teacher of sorts on several occasions.

I taught school as a sub in Pike county KY one year. The youngen's hated it. lol No days off when I subbed, we went right on with the lessons and never missed a lick. If the teacher left no instructions, then I would invent so form of educational distraction to stir the mush between those young ears.

Not only did I teach their classes but I drove their bus. lol Let me explain. In the mountains of eastern Kentucky, school teachers also drive the school buses to make a little extra change at the end of the pay period. If you subbed for a teacher, you took their bus route too, if they had one.

Unlike the way Mr. Whitman described it, you were one of the more prominent and respected people in that community of coal miners and lumberjacks. They knew first hand the difference between having and not having much education.

I was also a drill sergeant in the Army which amounts to a 24/7 teaching job. It is your job to train, train, train those soldiers. The same thing is true in the mainstream of the military. As a NCO, you were always giving classes for one thing or another. And when you weren't teaching, I can guarantee you, you were doing. lol

Teaching is not easy by anybodies stretch and why someone would want to do it for no more than they usually pay is beyond me...but then, somebody has to do it. Fact is,if you are reading this at all, you have a teacher to thank somewhere in your past.