On Anybody Can What?

“Anyone can teach.”

I’ve heard that statement many times from people outside of the profession – along with this one: Those who can, do – those who can’t, teach.

Everybody is an educational expert – after all, everyone has sat in a classroom. Yep – everyone who has owned a car is also a qualified mechanic. Everyone who has eaten at a restaurant is qualified to run one. Because I’ve owned GE appliances, I’m qualified to be on the GE Board of Directors. Oh, yes!!!

As a group, teachers are very defensive of themselves and their professional. Then again, unless you’ve done it or are/have been married to a teacher, people are clueless about the time, demands, and effort involved – let alone the knowledge behind instruction and the subject matter. But back to my initial statement – Anyone can teach.

President Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) stated that one way to improve teaching quality was to make it easier for non-teaching professional to enter and lead a classroom.. Although the commission’s report was over 30 years ago and teacher certification and licensing has changed since then, the saying and mindset still exists.

A body of knowledge exists with any occupation. Plumbers specialize in plumbing’s body of knowledge. They can get stumped because each plumber doesn’t know everything. The same can be said for all professions and occupations.

It’s obvious that Anyone can teach decreases the importance of the body of knowledge associated with teaching and learning. How else can one justify bringing in an outside professional who lacks teaching experience and teacher education training? Because the auto mechanic fixes cars, shouldn’t he/she be able to fix my air conditioner and furnace problem?

Interestingly, business has a similar and related mantra inside their own organizations – Anyone can train. For example, management promotes a top salesperson into a training position with hopes of the salesperson’s knowledge and experience will help the rest of the sales staff. After all, Anyone can train. Yet, leadership in the business ignores training’s body of knowledge because what are the odds this new trainer has any knowledge about training, training development, and learning?

A body of knowledge associated with effective training is significant – just like teaching. And just as Anyone can teach, Anyone can train is an illusion. To many people, training and teaching is getting up in front of others to disseminate knowledge – also known as the sage on the stage delivering death by PowerPoint. However, like the book title says – Telling Ain’t Training (Harold Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps) – and telling ain’t teaching either.

TellingAin'tTraining

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144 thoughts on “On Anybody Can What?

  1. Yes, I agree with you Frank. I doubt that even a certificate could guarantee a good teacher in the classroom. I taught on the college level for some 30 years, first as a lecturer and later as a professor, and I’m not at all sure that I could teach successfully in elementary or high school. One has to learn the context of the job, and how to deal with the specific challenges,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shimon,
      The last sentence of your comment is brilliant (about learning the context of the job & specific challenges at different grade levels) … and you are absolutely right about the certificate not guaranteeing a good teacher. After all, I am confident that there are people in other professions who would be better teachers than some of those you received there certificate. Many thanks for sharing your perspective.

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  2. Unless someone has been in a classroom on a day to day basis, they have no clue what it takes to teach or the things teachers do for their students that go beyond curriculum. People who say that those who can’t, teach….well, they’re just ignorant.

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    • George,
      I wonder how many people think that teaching is leading the class, rinse and repeat with another class, and again .. and maybe so with a different subject … leave at 3 pm … get in a round of golf or head to the gym … go home for chores then relax watching television – free weekends … and then all summer off.

      On the other hand, I know some teachers who were a pain in the butt to other teachers because they know better than anyone.

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      • Probably quite a few. So any people think you walk into a classroom with well adjusted middle class kids. They have no idea. There are kids living in hotel rooms with a dozen other people, kids from broken families where one or both of their parents are in jail, or should be, kids who sit there during snack time watching other kids because their parents couldn’t afford them, kids with physical and emotional challenges who may be disruptive, parents who refuse to give their kids the medication they need in order to function and not act out on a daily basis. The list goes on. As a teacher you have to find a way, in elementary school to handle all those situations and personalities. And this is not the inner city…this is middle class America. Wealthy districts? How about fourth graders who may have attempted suicide, one time well respected parents who are in jail for white collar crimes, spoiled children whose parents think their child walks on water.
        What teachers deal with a day to day basis extends well beyond the classroom and the school day. People who haven’t been there just don’t understand.

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        • Sorry to barge in, George, but just wanted to say – “Wonderful, insightful comment”. You see, I am irritated with parents not teaching their kids any manners at all these days. They expect the teacher to handle their brats, let alone understand that the first school is home.
          I feel sorry for those kids you have mentioned who are underprivileged. But the rich kids, they are born with a sense of entitlement and do you know what galls me most? That students in this day and age have no respect at all for teachers.
          I understand what you are saying about how it looks easy from the outside, but I just wish people would respect and value teachers more, it would rub off on their children too. (Any society, not just over there – first world, developing third-world nations, island nations, anywhere you go).

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m butting in here too! My sister worked in an elementary school and there is nothing more shocking then having a kindergartener tell a teacher to Eff off! As she is not allowed to smack them, they must stand against the wall while others play. Parent comes to pick up said child and, when it is explained why child is where he is, tells my sister, “Oh, he didn’t mean it. How dare you put my kid against the wall.” What’s a teacher to do?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I know, you cannot touch them, you cannot yell at them, you have to also face irate parents if you punish them or penalize them in any manner. Poor parenting, an idiotic society, and a brash, brave new world out there. Depressing.

          Liked by 1 person

        • No need to apologize. You’re absolutely right, the first school is home but too many parents leave discipline to teachers and it’s just not fair. As you stated, everything is a ripple down affect. If children hear negative comments about teachers at home, which many politicians are promoting, the child picks up on it and comes to school with a lack of respect for the individual and the profession. Thank you Gov. Christie for trying to destroy what is one of the top ten educational systems in the country strictly to settle a score and political gain. And the ones who suffer the most? The kids. So sad.

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        • Thank you, George. Completely agree. But I am a little confused, if a few of us can see this, why not the rest?
          (Not to get into politics, especially when I don’t even belong to your country, but Gov Christie campaigned for HW and Dubya of the “Is our kids learning” fame. But he came across as an earthy, bipartisan, commonsense fellow during the Hurricane Sandy thing.. or maybe just showboating during the crisis, not sure.. sorry, not my place to comment on your internal politics or politicians hehe)

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        • This is strictly political. The teachers union did not back him during his campaign for governor and he vowed to get them. He has a long history of bullying and going after people who oppose him. What’s interesting is that his late mother was part of the same Union he’s going after and he has consistently praised the public school education he received in NJ. Vengeance, power and politics are dangerous cocktail…:)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Hahaha… how true..
          Hmm.. .I must get into politics then… too many accounts to settle.. 😀 Kidding!!

          Thank you, George, for indulging me.. (Er… first name because I don’t know any other.. sorry)

          Liked by 1 person

        • Great point … and the students bring all that baggage to school every day – and no matter how much they try to hide it or show it doesn’t affect them – it does. Then again, sometimes a student rises above it all to truly shine.

          In a related note, I like to ask this question: Are the students at affluent school district more important than the students at low-income school?

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        • Good question, Frank. Some people would think so and they’d be wrong. But sadly, society doesn’t always reject that thinking. That’s a whole different subject that we can spend endless amount of time discussing both sides of the argument…:)

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  3. It is amusing how many people who have never held a job teaching think they know what it’s like and have opinions on how it ought to be done. To be a competent teacher requires training and experience. To be a really good teacher, requires talent and even more experience. To be a great teacher, requires a kind of gift. It’s the same in every line of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cynthia,
      I appreciate your descriptions of different levels of teachers … and I’ve got to agree that their is an element having a gift to go along with the training, experience, and talent. And just as in other lines of work, there are only a select few.

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  4. As someone who has been in many a classroom, I can say first hand that not everyone can teach. I’ve also done a fair amount of teaching myself, not necessarily in a classroom venue but in other ways (one on one with trainees or small groups of trainees), so I know teaching requires a certain skill set, and like any skill, reading about the process and keeping up to date with things is critical. And, of course, for teachers in our kids’s classrooms, a degree and continuing education is a must. Great post, Frank.

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    • Like Carrie, I have taught students in the clinic as well as written and taught several continuing education courses. I agree that it takes a particular skill set and dedication. The best teachers understand learning styles, they mix lecture with practical experiences. They present materials in ways that engage their students and they understand that every student is different. It is a great post, Frank, And I believe that teachers, as a whole, are some of the most generous and patient people in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie,
      Given the level of education you have attained, you have encountered more than a few who are in front of the classroom for what they know and/or can do … and certainly not for their teaching ability. It’s a skill … and certain aspects are an art … and all with a existing body of knowledge to support it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh this is an important post. I took two semesters (6 courses) at a College, in hotel management. Every single teacher was also a qualified worker of some kind in the food and beverage industry in their day job (this was something the administrators lauded). At the time, none were required to take any pedagogical courses (they are now). One was doing so (he was a chef) because he felt it would make him a better teacher – and he was fabulous already! Of the five other courses I took, only two were good at transmitting their knowledge (obviously, they fall in Cynthia’s really good to great category!) They really knew their subject they just didn’t know how to pass on the information.
    I look back on my teachers from elementary school to college and university and there are some true standouts – both negative and positive.
    I tip my hat to teachers. They work extremely long hours (unpaid), need to have the patience of Job, the creativity of Da Vinci, the strength of …. well, you get the picture!

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  6. Frank, I know how hard teaching is. I tried it for a bit. It’s one of the hardest jobs out there. I think everyone should teach for a week! Now that would change education, don’t you think? That would be my “plan” to change education. I bet things would change really fast. Great post.

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    • Amy,
      In terms of everyone teaching a week … hmmmm … don’t forget, there are those who admitted don’t want any part of it. …. but I see you point that changing the outsiders perspective on education my ultimately help the classroom situation because they are more supportive of teachers.

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  7. I’d forgotten about Reagan’s initiative and the number of non-credentialed teachers entering the classroom. For many years I taught at the early childhood/young elementary level. It’s interesting how many people think that teaching young children is tantamount to either babysitting or play. A well-prepared teacher at any grade level is equipped with much more than just the expertise in subject matter. I don’t miss the hours and hours of preparation or spending my own money to give my students the extra things I thought were essential, but I often miss the classroom. I taught piano for many years as well, and also preferred working with young children. I think older children and adults often frustrated me because they didn’t take practice seriously–so i wasn’t as interested in teaching. I think the best teachers also know their limits! 🙂 Very interesting topic, Frank. I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debra,
      First of all, you are one I was hoping would see this post (because I know a little of your background – but not the teaching piano part – but I do now!)

      The thought of teaching young kids as babysitting and play is an interesting point. Many times I have told others that teachers of the very young may not have to know much depth of content, but the high school people could learn a lot of teaching skills from them.

      In terms of missing the classroom, when I left a colleague said this to me: You’ll miss the classroom – you just won’t miss all the baggage that comes with it.

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  8. It is also true that anyone can be a parent. The act of giving birth however does not guarantee you will be a good parent. I have seen teachers with a long list of qualifications who should not be allowed within a hundred miles of a classroom. I have seen people with minimal teaching qualifications who were outstanding at their job. I ended my long teaching career as a trainer and mentor for new teachers and saw that for more and more of them it was simply a job and as a result the classroom suffered. In my day it was a vocation and we gave ourselves to it fully – we were idealistic and dedicated. We also burned out and many of us staggered out the other end with no financial security for our old age. Sure, anyone can be a teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline,
      Knowing a bit of your background, I was hoping you would read this post and comment. Many thanks for coming though. 🙂

      I must say, your parent comment at the start made me laugh .. well, sadly so … but it is so true. It fits in so well to how I started this post.

      The on-paper “qualified” not being allowed in the classroom (and the opposite you mentioned) is so true. One year I was on a state committee responsible for selecting finalists from our state for a national award. Of course, we judged based on what was on paper. I recall one applicant whose seemed impressive – maybe even being one of the ones we selected. Later (within a year) I met one of her students when checking into a hotel. (totally coincidental) … and she started talking, and what she described was very opposite to what I read.

      You have mentioned a lot here, so many thanks for sharing.

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    • X,
      Excellent point – what does a politician need to know to govern a government – national, state, or local – it’s a very applicable question. And hey – once elected, one is an instant expert on everything.

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  9. Frank, I must sound weird if I claimed that I came from a community of teachers. Every third person here is a blessed teacher and I am not sure that is all that great. The thing is, in my own family, we have teachers everywhere. My dad was a professor of language, my aunts were all school teachers, my cousins are lecturers and professors, my uncles are all professors or school teachers. So it is a little weird that I am the only person in my family not to teach. Here is the thing – I loved to teach, I have taught informally all my life, even to my seniors when I was in college or even (shamefully) a few novice lecturers who taught our class. My brother was always a covetous little wimp who wanted nothing but to make money. Everyone thought I would end up being a great teacher and he would be some sleazy businessman. Irony!! Raw Irony!! He is a professor now and I used to be a technocrat, then a consultant, then a freelancer. Hahaha.
    But you know, I have always felt that deeply – unless you have an urge within you to teach, unless you have the talent for it and the desire, do not teach. Most of these relatives of mine are no doubt good teachers, but with the exception of my father, none of them thought of it as a calling, but a vocation, merely a profession. Sad.
    In fact, my father dissuaded me from going into teaching. In his twilight years, just before retirement, he called me and told me, give up this idea – you are going to end up frustrated at the uselessness of it all, you are going to cry about the lack of one single quality student in years, you are going to suffer the utter ennui of teaching vacuous minds who do not wish to learn but to get past this course and earn, you are going to be disillusioned with the sheer uselessness of your contribution to society in the end.
    You know what? He is right, but I resent it very much that I did not become a teacher. You should see me when I visit my daughter’s school for any reason – dozens of kids run up to me to ask me stuff, about science, about history, about languages, about current events. And I am in my element there, I love it. Unfortunately, I asked the school management if I could contribute somehow, now that I am a blasted cripple/invalid and not working, if I could come by once a week and interact with the entire school. They nodded their heads in suspicion and most teachers got very irate as if I had accused them of being inept teachers. I would love to teach some day, but to students who deserve it or yearn for it.

    (Sorry, all my comments end up being mini-articles hahaha)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tejaswi,
      Many thanks for sharing because you have hit upon many important points. Some people are natural teachers … just as some are natural athletes, musicians, artists, thinkers, do-ers, managers, and so on.

      On the other hand, teaching is not only difficult, but it can run one down – thus leading to disillusion, frustration, and complacency.

      No need to apologize for your post within a post 😉 .. after all, you have provide thoughts for others to kick around their brain. But at least you’ve seen that I am more than a list 😉 … (I couldn’t resist). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • @ Tejaswi & Frank,

      Tejaswi, and others, seem to imply that good teachers are born, not made. I would agree. When I did my master’s degree in management I took one course in “communications” that I understand is commonly offered in the pedagogy of teaching teachers to teach. If nothing else, that course taught me that pedantry is rife in such fields and isn’t worth much. In my opinion, good teachers have an innate talent and passion for their job.

      Similarly, good students are also born and not made. As my rural grandparents would have said, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” My 11-year-old grandson is a self-taught kind of kid. He makes top grades but school bores him. He currently is passionate about photography, computers and athletics (basketball and disk golf). He makes projects for himself and sets goals and schedules. Nobody taught him those things, they are in his nature.

      It seems to me that a basic thing wrong with our education system is that it fails to fit the curriculum to each student’s talents. Of course, that is a problem driven by culture wherein parents equate a diploma as the goal rather than seeing education as a process that never ends.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Wheeler, I am thankful to you for pointing that out. I was exactly like your grandson.. It might sound a little like conceit, but I have met only a few teachers in my life. I don’t consider the rest to be humans, let alone teachers. In our country, even to this day in spite of a new law against it, corporal punishment is the norm rather than the exception. There were pure psychopaths out there who let out their fury on us little kids. (I must say, I objected when a teacher hit my daughter for doing too many sums in her math book. I was flabbergasted at first, then utterly furious. So I am quite unpopular among my daughter’s teachers now because I dared to complain.. and er.. also wrote that people have to be ‘slightly demented to punish a child for over-achieving rather than under-achieving’). School/college frustrated me, like it was not enough for me, that there was more to learn and I could not plod along with the rest. So everyone resented me (and in hindsight, rightly so) from the students to the teachers.

        I spent all the years of computer engineering with the mechanical engineering staff. I knew more about lathes and machines and fluid mechanics than mechanical engg students themselves. Did that mean that I was poor in Computers? Nope. But engineering or any other study is not limiting yourself to one thing, to a narrow scope. I detest it. So I completely agree with your views on by-rote learning or goal-oriented learning.

        Lastly, a good student need not be a good teacher. But a good teacher needs to be a student forever. I am not humble, nor do I urge humility in others. But to constantly learn more, to have the thirst for it, to learn in order to teach that again to the rest of humanity is what makes a good teacher great (in my not-so-humble opinion haha).

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      • Jim,
        Yes, all of us born with certain innate qualities that fit a particular skill. However, I also don’t want to downplay the body of knowledge about teaching and training – let alone experience.

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  10. Important point Frank. Understanding the content of any profession never translates into being able to perform the job. I have seen far to many ‘bad’ teachers over the years. Of course, I have seen many great ones as well.

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    • Val,
      You have touched upon one of the broad points of this post (applicability to other professions). I look at your bad vs great teachers comment a different way … many good ones, not great ones … but maybe a several great ones. I say that because I to differentiate the great from the good. … but like you noted, they are out there.

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      • I was so fortunate Frank, I had a few great ones. My sons had a few great ones as well. All three of us had some truly terrible ones also.

        I know the good ones and the great ones are out there. One of my youngest sons great ones, he actually came to teaching through a community out reach. He was something else first and never thought to be a teacher, but unemployment and trying something new brought him to teaching.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Being a teacher is very difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. Perhaps anyone can teach–if they can put up with all the demands–but not everyone can teach well. I HATE the teacher bashing I read and hear. Most of the people who do so, have no idea of the long hours teacher spend after school grading work, attending workshops, or taking classes, emailing and calling parents, dealing with state regulations, and on and on. My husband just retired after 37 years of teaching. He has so many former students who have told him how much he meant to them. He is a natural teacher. (He’s going to be teaching teachers at in-service programs.) My younger daughter is also a natural teacher. She’s at the beginning of her career, and perhaps she will decide to do something else after a few years. I have many friends who are teachers. I’ve been a teacher (preschool and college), but I am not that great at it. It is truly a hard job to go in every day and teach. We all have had the teachers who could not do it.

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    • Merril,
      You are another one that I’ve been eagerly awaiting a comment (so thanks for coming through). You brought up two great points … it is very demanding – including the aspect of time. … but yes, some are naturals at it – as in a natural gift, in which they learn to enhance it.

      On the downside, some have the natural gift of rapport with an age group, but that doesn’t mean they are natural teachers – or even good teachers.

      Cheers to the successes in your family! … thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Certainly not everyone is capable of teaching when they haven’t been educated to teach, that being said, there are still teachers that are bad teachers, like in every profession. I taught adults computer programs, web design, it was hard work since all my prep etc, had to be done on my own time. I required a lot of patience with the adults, I don’t believe I would have the same patience with elementary or high school kids, and I volunteered for years in all of my kids classes.

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    • Catherine,
      To be devil’s advocate, certainly not being educated on teaching isn’t valued by those who want to transition those from outside education to inside – hence on of my points. .. .Then again, your first statement supports my theme. Thanks for sharing your experiences!!!! … and yes – absolutely every barrel of duties have good apples and bad apples.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, Frank, this post generated a great deal of discussion. You know how to pick your topics!

    You probably know I was a college professor and loved my chosen profession. I also saw too many college professors (as both a student and a colleague) who seemed to be cruising on auto-pilot toward retirement. Those profs make me angry because they make profs like me look bad and lend a bit of ammunition to the people who mindlessly spew the adages you roil against in this thoughtful post.

    If you’ve ever once in your life had the pleasure to be inspired by a teacher (who you probably still remember fondly to this day), then you know that teaching is a part art, part craft, part skill, part individual finesse, part dedication, part smarts, part passion. It’s a mystical concoction that is as valuable as it is unique.

    If you’ve ever once (and I’m sure you have) been unfortunate enough to be in the classroom of a person who was supposed to be your teacher but spoke at you in monotone or read from the text or did some other ghastly thing to waste your time, then how could you ever think think that “anyone can teach?” And if you ever were in a class like that, I hope you complained to the administration!

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    • Lorna,
      Thanks so much for sharing your story and experiences.To me, especially at the university level, professors are there for what they know … for what they can do – such as write, get grants, & research – and it just happens they also get a few teaching as part of the job description … therefore, students get their share of teaching mediocrity. Even that, it’s only part of the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My sister and her daughter and my brother are teacher assistance. My sister isn’t interested in being a teacher she is content at her age doing what she’s doing. My niece is going to school to get her teaching degree but she is sick most of the school year because of the kids coming in with colds. My brother retired from the phone company. He had a teaching degree but refuses to update it. He works with special ed. He had one kid follow him home and would come to his house whenever he felt like it. Everyone tells me I should have been a teacher. I taught my kids when they were little but they were my kids and I was in my 20’s. I tried to teach my grandchildren but they had no interest in school subjects when they weren’t required to do school work. I know it’s not a walk in the park and those who teach our children deserve our praise.

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  15. You are so right, Frank. I know for a fact that not everybody can teach. Because I’m a rotten teacher. I know my stuff, and can explain it, but haven’t got the time or inclination to do the detail work necessary to make sure the lesson is learned. I can tell I’m not a good teacher because the lesson often isn’t learned, or the lesson isn’t quite learned correctly.

    Good teachers are worth their weight in gold.

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  16. Great post, Frank. Teaching is being in the trenches of humanity. Critical for holding the line for civilization and progress. Enjoyed the comments, too
    Sometimes thought all Parent should be required to spend a year or two at the secondary level…but not sure I could do that to the kids….
    Do think that teacher should actually hold another job in the business world for a year or so every 10 years or so – just to keep them grounded and up to date on what the business/real world requires. Some already know, many never experience that.
    In a perfect world, all college prof/instructors in education field at university level might do well to actually teach 2 years back to back in an ordinary classroom – not a lab school classroom. Some never have, so what do they really know?
    A good teacher is a juggler adapting on the fly as needed – rare and valued.

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    • Mouse,
      Love your opening and closing statements (trenches and juggler) … excellent descriptions of a teacher’s duty. In terms of keeping up with content, add keeping up with teaching techniques and knowledge about learning is probably more important.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Anyone can teach, and everyone can learn; it is happening in the workaday world, as each one of us, if observed closely, is either teaching or learning, or doing both in our various vocations in life. That said, to be a guru, a great teacher, requires, not just qualifications and knowledgeability, but a passion for the job, a special ability to climb down to the perspective of the student or learner, and instruct with due perception of what it takes to understand the subject from that level and impart knowledge accordingly. A great teacher has to make himself interesting by staying abreast of latest developments in the field and raising the bar of excellence. It is certainly not a walk-in function as some uninformed sections of society would like to make it appear to others….best wishes.

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    • Raja,
      A cerebral comment that teaching is more than what happens in the formal classroom as it happens many times in our daily routine. Yet, you also promote the fact that it takes more than knowledge and know-how. Sadly, your description as a “walk-in” function made me laugh – well put!

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  18. Having worked inside the education level at every level, in the classroom and out, with pre-schoolers to adults, in regular education and special education; and having been on both sides of the table with parents as educator and as outside advocate, I can tell you this for certain: even having a teaching degree in an exact area of expertise and with an exact population does not make you a true teacher. You can pass the exams and the technical qualifications without having the creativity, drive and love for people that it takes to be a teacher. And many excellent teachers from antiquity did not have a degree to say they knew what they were doing.

    There are chefs with degrees who will find steady work in a restaurant, but who will never receive a gasp of delight from diners.

    There are musicians with degrees who may give beginner lessons to students whose parents insist, but who will never move an audience with their playing or singing.

    One of the coolest things is when I ask a kid I mentor who their favorite teacher is, and they tell me it’s the teacher in a class where they are receiving a C. And when I ask why this teacher is their favorite, they say things like this:

    “I feel like I’m really learning.”

    “They believe in me and explain it in different ways.”

    “They actually got me interested in knowing more about the topic.”

    In the end, the only qualification I’ve found for what makes a good teacher … is that the people they are teaching learn and are motivated to learn. Both are equally important: the instruction and the inspiration.

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    • Erik,
      Thanks for sharing your insight. Your point about passing a certification/licensing test is interesting. I’ve always said that those tests don’t measure certain important attributes – and just because one passes the test doesn’t mean they will be very good. … I appreciate you including the thoughts from the young people you have mentored.

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      • I’ve always said, if a good part of a class is failing or doesn’t like the teacher or gets kicked out frequently or is bored – the problem isn’t the students. Again, the marker of a teacher is that the people being taught learn and feel motivated to learn. And that is regardless of subject matter.

        On the other hand, you also have the teachers about whom kids say, “They give everyone an A” or “They don’t even teach half the time; it’s mostly just hand-outs” or “That class is a joke” or “The teacher is a push-over.” And while it may APPEAR that the kids “like” this kind of teacher … they still aren’t learning nor are they motivated to learn.

        What’s more, if I speak with a teacher, and they tell me all the negative things about the kid, or they have a scowl and furrowed brow while at the table … I instantly know, yet again, that the problem isn’t the kid.

        When people in education suggest, “You know how kids are: they’re not accurate reporters,” I take issue. They are, in most cases, the only accurate reporters and markers of what is happening in a classroom. The laws and unions continue to protect bad teachers even from observations by their own principals without two-weeks’ warning. But I’ve found ways to “be around for other reasons and unofficially observe” … and rarely are the kids lying about what goes on (or doesn’t) in a classroom.

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        • Absolutely, Frank. I know some excellent teachers, for sure. But I’m being honest: after 25 years of teaching, I have to say that most teachers are not excellent (and many are not even passable). For whatever reasons, they’ve lost their focus on the students. They do what is best for them, re-using the same lesson plans year after year, decade after decade; “prepping” 5 minutes before the next class starts by skimming the day’s material; speaking negatively in the lunch room and after school about their students (or about teaching in general, e.g., “I can’t wait til retirement”); blaming “the system” and “unrealistic goals,” etc. And I do sympathize that, with an ever-growing trend to “teach to the test” rather than TEACH, it’s difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

          Teaching is a career people stick with long after they no longer feel passionately about it, because of the security and retirement. And that is unfortunate – for both the teacher and the students. In many jobs, you can stick with it “to pay the bills” and it doesn’t matter much. Teaching isn’t one of them. When you lose the passion, the desire to keep putting in the time to make it excellent and personal, and the love of seeing that light go on in kids’ eyes, real teaching stops and becomes “information dumping.”

          I will also say that, in 25+ years, I’ve never had a kid I couldn’t teach and motivate to learn, outside or inside a classroom. And I believe that is because I remain focused on the individual learners and the joy of learning. You might enjoy THIS ANECDOTAL ACCOUNT. I guess I’m with Father Flannigan: “There are no bad [kids]. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” Are there kids who are troubled? Lazy? Belligerent? Yup. But why? I’m never one to accept that a kid is categorically something. They are behaving a certain way for certain reasons. I think, as a teacher, we have to spend more time asking “why” than looking at “what.”

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        • Some kids come to school with consider baggage. Sometimes a teacher can help them overcome it, and get a new start. Some won’t allow anyone to shed it.

          There are many ills in education, and I’m not going down that road because that’s not the purpose of this post.

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        • The post, as I understood it, is about the claim that “Anyone can teach,” with a strong bent toward refuting this claim. I’m simply in agreement. Just “anyone” can not teach. It’s not a profession for the faint of heart. On that we agree.

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  19. i didn’t want to be a teacher. then, i didn’t want to stop. when i was in college, i studied writing because i wanted to work for a newspaper. when i was about to graduate, i thought, “who the hell is going to hire me right out of college to work on a newspaper? what experience do i have?”

    my future ex-wife was studying to be a teacher. she was two years behind me in college, but well on her way through education training. she said, “why don’t you teach other people to write?” i thought it was a dumb idea, partly because i hadn’t written anything yet. but that didn’t mean she was wrong.

    i had also studied a great deal of poetry and literature. i thought, “well, i can teach english, probably.” so i stayed an extra year in college for classes on education, and then graduated with a teaching certificate in english and writing.

    what was supposed to be a backup plan turned into a career. now, after having put in enough time and stepping down, i’m working on what was supposed to be plan A instead of plan B, and i’m perfectly okay with that.

    in some ways, it’s true that anyone can teach, but let’s clarify that. let’s pretend that the lowest ranking person of a major company is a custodian and the highest ranking person is the CEO. yes, anyone can teach. the custodian can teach the CEO how to mop a floor. the CEO can teach the custodian a better golf swing. i’ve often said that everyone can teach something to someone and everyone can learn something from someone. no matter who you are, you know something and can do something that someone else can’t. however, that doesn’t mean you have the ability to conduct and control a room full of hormone-laced teenagers from september to june.

    i didn’t want to be a teacher. once i understood it, immersed myself in it, saw the real purpose of my place to contribute to society, i didn’t want to stop.

    that’s for the tip of the misunderstood iceberg.

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    • Rich,
      Many thanks for sharing your journey into education. Interesting how some have always wanted to be one, then did … yet others found their way there.

      I enjoyed your comment of “everyone can teach something to someone and everyone can learn something from someone.” This is so true, especially when including all the ways and situations of learning in life … and yes … that doesn’t mean it’s transferable into leading a formal classroom.

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    • hahahaha… I am so sorry that I am laughing out aloud… but that phrase “My future ex-wife” had me rolling about madly… This is certainly off-topic… and my apologies to Frank, frankly (er!..) but it was so funny, I wished it was written by me..
      [arrrgghh… I hope my wife does not ever read this and accuse me of planning anything already. Just that the words made me laugh and giggle without break. :)]

      What a line! Worth its weight in gold (er.. ok… maybe more.. we will add a few pounds to the few words). ‘My future ex-wife was studying to be a teacher’.. I am sorry I am such a boor.. but it cracks me up… I mean, imagine… I should have had the luck to propose to someone with the full knowledge of the end…

      On another note, I am sorry.. truly.. it is not like I am some insensitive animal. Those words startled me… that is all.. nice thoughts though 🙂 and some of those things, I have said often enough, since several years..

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  20. Hi Frank! I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for teachers. Like nursing, it can sometimes feel like a thankless job. I did substitute teaching for grades K-8 when I was in nursing school, and I worked in school health for a number of years in over 60 schools in Ohio as well. It is not easy – and that’s an understatement! Although many public schools are good, my kids go to private only. And I sacrifice greatly to do that. That decision is definitely based on my experiences. I can’t say enough about the worth of a good teacher – because they have life-changing power, but they too, need to be in the right “place” to impart it – educationally, mentally, and even physically. So no, not just anybody can teach!

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    • Kelly,
      I have paralleled teachers and nurses for a while time.

      Because your comment focused on “good teachers”, I’ll go over topic from the post with the following:

      I know you are a baseball fan, so an analogy. Hall of Famer Johnny Bench said that the Hall is for the great, not the good. I like that separation. Or as one sees at Home Depot, there are distinctions as Good, Better, and Best. Not all teachers are at the Good level … but of the Good, there are fewer that are Better, and even fewer that are Best.

      On the other hand, I know a Superintendent who prefers teachers who the public thinks is good than teachers who are good.

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  21. Interesting post and insightful discussions Frank on one of the most under appreciated, misunderstood “better and best” professional occupations out there. Their influence on our children have a profound and lasting effect (good and bad). Sad to see that the numerous challenges facing our public school system (politics, quality of teachers, quality of parenting, etc.) has changed the quality of our children’s mind-set and preparedness as they move to their next level of independence and/or higher education. From prior generations today’s US education system show results to be on a downward trend (spiral) – how to stop the madness and turn the trend around before . . . ?

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    • Mary,
      My aim was at both education and corporate training because of the parallel that I see in these two seemingly unrelated functions. There is no question about the importance of education of our youth – and you may have remembered the series I did that had a collection of things that I wrote on said on various educational topics.

      In terms of the downward spiral through results (and I say this as an intentional counter), well .. it depends on what results on uses. After all, one could gather data that shows improvement. As some say, determine what one wants to say, then go find the stats to back it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. After reading the multitude of great comments by your readers along with your excellent replies, I’m hoping it’s OK for me to chime back in a second time.

    What I hear your readers saying is that teaching is a really, really tough job that is absolutely essential to our society. Agreeing completely, I ask this question: “What does the U.S. do to guarantee that in the professions considered vital to society, that a steady supply of talented, well-trained, and highly dedicated people are constantly coming through the education pipeline, hired, and RETAINED.” It’s simple. Society pays them HIGH SALARIES and provides them GOOD WORKING CONDITIONS. Apple, Boeing, P&G, and all the other Fortune 500 live or die by their success in finding and keeping their top employees. FOLLOW THE MONEY! Education is a REALLY, REALLY TOUGH JOB that leaves WELL-TRAINED teachers just as exhausted at the end of the day (often at ten o’clock at night) as employees in other VITAL PROFESSIONS!

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    • Tim,
      Sure you can chime in again .. and thanks for doing so. Because your points aren’t the primary focus of this post, I will simply say that throwing money at a poorly designed, inefficient system would yield the same results – thus a poor investment.

      Like

      • You are correct, but I submit that employees of Apple, Boeing, and P&G, are partly paid well to improve the systems of their companies FROM WITHIN. I talk often to the P&G employees in my church and that’s what they tell me. The conclusion I reach is that high salaries (and improved working conditions) must come first. That leads the best candidates into the teaching profession. That’s how P&G attracts the top college graduates, and after people are hired there, IMMEDIATE pressure is put on them to work in teams to come up with ways to exceed the sales of their competitors. The same thing would happen in education in the U.S. if teaching salaries were as high as they are in Finland and Germany (and working conditions as good), and where expectations includes teachers participating in upgrades to their educational systems which are DEMANDED by their countries’s industrial leaders.

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      • . . . throwing money at a poorly designed, inefficient system would yield the same results – thus a poor investment.

        Intuitively, I agree. My mother was a depression-era teacher in a one-room school in Oklahoma and when I reflect on that, it occurs that it wasn’t a bad model. There was nobody looking over her shoulder as she taught. That’s not to say the curriculum wasn’t prescribed, I know it was, but she had freedom to lead wide-ranging discussions, and, she said there was synergy in mixing the various grades. The older kids helped the younger with their lessons. I submit it would be an interesting experiment to return to something like that model. What do you think, Frank?

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        • Jim,
          In general, I’m in the reform camp … reform and overhaul. The current model is based on the Industrial Age, and as we both know, it’s long gone. The proclaimed good school are the Model-Ts with a Corvette body. .. .yet I’m confident elements of that one-room school would be very applicable

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  23. Pingback: Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 275 | A Frank Angle

    • RoSy,
      Yep – and just saw an article in our Sunday paper with the following headline: Teachers With Industry Experience are ‘Inspirational” to Students …. but to be fair, the article is about teachers from industry at a community college.

      Liked by 1 person

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