Woody Allen said it first and Jack Black quoted him in the movie “School of Rock":
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
Really? Why so little respect for the teachers? Why does everyone think it’s easy, fun, or a fallback career for the inept? Teaching is my profession AND my passion. I’m constantly challenged to find creative, effective ways to reach my students. I never stop learning, and I love it. I recently read an article on the blog “Female Intel” titled, “Why Teaching is Harder Than It Looks” by Denise Hong. Although her experience isn’t exactly the same as mine, her message rang true. Denise has a PhD in Molecular Biology and is currently teaching high school biology. She encounters the same types of frustrations that I have in motivating, inspiring, and keeping the attention of her students.
Strangely, when people ask you about your work as a scientist, there is a hush of awed silence while you explain your brilliant, yet utterly incomprehensible work. When you tell them you’re a teacher or professor, suddenly everyone has an opinion and tells you what an easy gig you have. “Just make it fun for the students!” they say. “Capture their imagination!” they suggest. “Be an inspiration to them!” they opine. Let me tell you, no amount of singing, dancing, or calisthenics can capture the attention or imagination of an unwilling crowd. Trust me, I’ve tried it. I have mock-fainted, all the way to the floor. I have done a cartwheel in the classroom. You know that way your cat looks at you? Yeah, that’s the way they looked at me. A classroom full of bored cats.
And having a fancy-schmancy PhD doesn’t guarantee that you’re a good teacher. In fact, many brilliant scientists are actually really bad at communicating, period. My Scarlett O’Hara moment was in grad school when my brilliant scientist professors couldn’t teach their ways out of a paper bag. “With God as my witness, I will be a good teacher,” I intoned, with the vertical blinds of the student lounge wrapped around me.
[Image courtesy http://img.ibtimes.com/www/data/images/full/2011/07/21/134549.jpg]
Quoting Denise Hong:
“Teaching is not easy. Teaching is not intuitive. Teaching is not something that anyone can figure out on their own. Education researchers spend lifetimes developing effective new teaching methods. Teaching takes hard work and constant training. I understand now.
… Inspiring kids? Inspiring kids can be downright damned near close to impossible sometimes. And… it’s downright damned near close to impossible to measure. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s test scores. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s grades. You measure inspiration 25 years later when that hot-shot doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur thanks her fourth-grade teacher for having faith in her and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.
Amen and amen. Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a professor have been running into former students working as nurses. One of my students decided to go into teaching after taking my class. The impact that a teacher has on a student’s life and career really can’t be measured. Let’s give the teachers the respect (and salary) they deserve.
Side note: My Lovely Assistant is planning on going back to get her PhD in Science Education because she loves it too. Let’s hear it for the teachers!Communication, science teaching, teaching