Those Who Can, Do…
Because They Had Good Teachers

Perhaps you’re familiar with the saying: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Let me quickly disabuse you of that notion. It’s bullshit. Those who can, do, because they had good teachers.

Sadly and ominously, our society treats teaching as a second class profession. We glorify doctors, lawyers, business people, athletes, and innovators, and all rightfully so, but when it comes to teachers, our attitudes generally range from ambivalent to disdainful. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

More accurately, it doesn’t take much examination to realize that those who can, do, because they had good teachers. Our doers are only doing because they were taught. In other words, teachers aren’t just doing, they’re doing the MOST important job in the country, because without them everyone else would lack the know how.

Ask yourself, as someone who does, if what you do has been influenced by important people in your life. It likely has, and likely some of those people were teachers. A good teacher not only imparts knowledge, he or she excites students by making learning fun, applicable, and relevant. That is no small chore; teachers don’t just have the most important job in the country, they have one of the most difficult jobs as well.

With that in mind, it would be reasonable to assume that our society treated teachers with the respect they deserve, and provided them with the resources they need to be successful. Neither of those things is true. The self-fulfilling prophecy of viewing teaching as a job only for those who can’t has become just that, self-fulfilling. The profession has failed to attract and maintain talent, funding has been cut, leading to the elimination of countless jobs and heaping even more responsibilities on teachers who are already stretched thin. Professional development and opportunities for career growth are limited if they exist at all.

In fairness, teachers have done themselves few favors; teachers’ unions go too far to protect their members, making it nearly impossible to fire bad teachers, and hunkering down in their trenches in the face of criticism rather than self-policing. These self-inflicted wounds only add fuel to the fire. Still, teachers are not responsible for the awful conditions of our public schools, but they are tasked with improving those conditions and it is society’s duty to help them.

There are many tangible action steps that need to be taken to improve teacher quality and effectiveness, but that starts with acknowledging the importance of the profession. Society needs doctors and lawyers, and we ought not diminish their importance, but we MUST elevate the status of teaching.

Without education, individuals and our society are doomed. Whatever future problems we face, only educated people will solve. If we really believe in a system of government by the people for the people, such a system will only last if the people are educated. For the parents hoping for a better life for their children, education is the only way to secure it. Whatever the motivation, education is the answer, and education is the responsibility of the teacher.

If you know a teacher, thank that person. He or she has a difficult job; teachers are pulled in every direction imaginable by parents, politicians, testing, and most importantly, the varying needs of the students in front of them each day. Until our society recognizes the importance and value of teachers, we will never give them the support they need to be successful, and we should all be terrified if our teachers fail, because our future is inextricably linked to their success.