I’m a bit behind in Discover Prompts. Day 13 is the word “Teach.” Today is April 22 – Earth Day.
I’ve always taken exception to the phrase, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I came by the teaching profession almost by accident. But I later realized I had been a teacher most of my life already.
To pay for graduate school, I took a Teaching Assistantship. Our TAs weren’t like in other disciplines, student helpers for a Professor. We had full charge of our classrooms, including syllabus development, rules, assignments, conferencing with students and grading papers. We did have some guidelines to follow, such as having to assign so many papers per term and meet requirements for a common final exam.
I was extremely shy at the time, but I understood English and writing and had a knack for learning. So I learned that I could prep any material handed to me and present it to an audience. But then teaching took on a life of its own for me. Rather than work towards a graduate degree in English for what reason, to be a writer? to work in publishing? I began to pursue knowledge of literature and the field of English to teach – to share my love of literature, writing, and the world of letters with others.
My students responded, most of them well. As with many teachers, I’ve had my share of bad apples, of students who were predisposed to be unhappy regardless of the circumstances of their classes. I was not a good teacher for those who didn’t want to be there, though I could motivate good work. Those I motivated were already predisposed to want to work, so the hard work of motivation – the crank starting of desire to learn – was already activated. I merely helped the student move forward with each step they took.
After 25 years of teaching, I decided it was time to do something else. I spent 25 years as a teaching assistant or an Adjunct college professor, mostly for in-person classes, but also online for the last 6 years of teaching. An active 17 year career in web development made transitioning to teaching online easy for me. I was always a techie. For a while, I sought full-time work in community colleges, but I never landed a job. I also had a life outside of teaching, and as an adjunct, I had no contract and thus did not make much money, so I never really got time off in the summers. Year after year, grading ground me down, and I got slower and slower at it. I needed a break.
Now that I haven’t taught for a year, the first time in 25 years, I see my slavery for what it was. But I’m proud to have been a teacher. In my heart, I will always be a teacher. Not everyone can teach, just like not everyone can write well. But one thing I learned from teaching is that anyone can learn to write. To learn to write, you must write. To learn to teach, you must teach.
So let’s change that phrase: “Those who can learn, can do anything. Those who won’t learn, will be slaves.”