I am a great admirer of those who came before me, and I believe there is much to be said for the wisdom of intelligent people. As anyone who reads my writing or visits my classroom knows, this admiration leads me to quote others frequently.
There are well-known quotes, however, that I do not appreciate. As I reflect on 2012, I’ve read countless articles arguing the merit of teachers. During this, I came across possibly my least favorite quote: “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach.” This quote is credited to several people from George Bernard Shaw to Woody Allen, but my concern isn’t with the source of the quote. It is with the validity of the statement, and the fact that it is tossed out frequently without any regard for its meaning. This is in fact the type of unintelligent, unsupported response I teach my students to avoid.
I, as any teacher would, take issue with the statement and recognize that teaching is the highest level of cognition encompassing every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy – both the original and revised versions. It frustrates me that such an important profession could ever be underappreciated, yet this quote reflects the attitude often projected toward educators.
As I begin 2013, however, I will not subscribe to negativity. I will return to the classroom rested and inspired to do the job that only those who can go beyond, selflessly do. What the source of this quote has overlooked is that teaching itself is an additional skill distinct from the subjects we teach. However, when all is said and done we teach students not English, math or science. It is this concept and the relationships we build with our students that separates our profession from others and makes me proud to be a teacher.
Sadly, it took an event like the loss of students and teachers in Newtown, Conn., to bring to light the wonderfulness of teachers. Many of the articles I’ve read about the tragedy have compared teachers to superheroes. In memory of those teachers and for those who doubt the validity of such a comparison, I would argue that all teachers are worthy of the comparison.
Consider the typical concepts within the definition of a superhero. Magical powers? To the child who cannot comprehend, there is magic when the words, numbers or concepts take shape in their mind, and they are able to understand. Crime fighter? The child who is rescued from the injustice of a bully would consider this the highest form of battling evil. Possessing superhuman or exceptional abilities? Today’s teachers use technology to study, network, coordinate, plan, create, organize, differentiate, entertain, motivate, discipline, evaluate, reflect, communicate, counsel, reteach, and plan again. This (short list) is all accomplished daily with multiple children of differing ability levels and needs. Beyond that, most are doing all these things through their lunch breaks and late into the night while caring for a family of their own. Herculean, yes.
So here’s to 2013, and a new year of selfless, superhero duty. Let’s keep our chins up and make those who have given their lives to the care of their students proud. I hope it’s your best year yet! For what it’s worth, I, as both a parent and fellow teacher, am your biggest cheerleader.
Kristal Doolin, a language arts teacher at Corbin Middle School in the Corbin Independent school district, was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012. During her year-long reign, Doolin will write a monthly column for Kentucky Teacher that chronicles her experience as a classroom teacher. The column runs the second Thursday of each month.