Those who can’t…carry the weight of an educated,
empathic society completely on their shoulders. (?)
I’ve always found the phrase in the title particularly funny. Just thinking about if it were true gives me the giggles.
Imagine you’re in your freshman year of high school, learning how to frame an argumentative essay. Your teacher stands up proudly at the front of the room, a pointer with an apple bobbin at the end stuck to the whiteboard that’s littered with spelling errors…
“Today, we’re going to learn how to write an essay that states an argument. As an example, I’ve written an essay on my belief that hedgehogs should be given raw beef diets to create a greater generation of hedgehogs. Notice that the font I used is ThesalonicaBOLD, as it helps me portray my mood.”
It’s especially “funny” to me because of the fact that I’ve (nearly) never been in the charge of an incompetent teacher. I’ve always been so aware of the impact particular teachers have had on my early life that I’ve hoped to be able to pass on the karma of mentoring a new generation. Of course, the American education system is suffering, but in no way do I believe that’s because under-qualified, talentless people decide to teach.
Because I’ve been teaching (usually still in small, controlled settings), I’ve been thinking of a lot of the things many people don’t know about education who never stepped foot back into an elementary, middle, or high school after they graduated. One of these things is that teachers genuinely love you, mourn for you, think about your future, and try to navigate around your handicaps and shortcomings to give you a better shot at a good future. Teachers at the stage I’m involved, early elementary, are often the greatest parental figure the kids have. The guidance they receive in how to behave, how to treat others, how to listen and exchange ideas, these nearly all come from teachers because the parents haven’t properly taught it or don’t have the ability to.
Teachers are teachers, but teachers are also parents.
Teachers have the painful task of being good and bad cops to the students they love. Often, they’ll have moments with kids who connect with them in which the kid passes on information about their home life, their pain, or their worries. It’s hard to take this information and transform it in a way that helps you better teach that child, and then still stand up to them when they’ve done wrong, punishing them if necessary, and guiding them on to a better path even if you think it might change their opinion of you.
Though I’ve no desire to be a parent, I can imagine it would feel similar with my own child. I love you, so I listen to you when you need it, but I don’t allow you to jeopardize your future, nor behave in an unfitting way because of it.
Teachers are humans with talents and aspirations. In college, I had a brilliant teacher who often looked at my poetry. His publications were just a part of the trade. He proved his worth, his ability to teach by continuing to pursue his passions. He is not one who taught because he couldn’t. He’s one who taught because he could.
I shudder to imagine what would have become of me if I had been taught by people who ended up as teachers because they couldn’t do what they were teaching. I shudder to imagine what my essays and creative writing might look like if the teacher closest to me (my mom) taught because she couldn’t actually do what she taught.
Take a moment and think of the teachers who’ve lost sleep over you, however long ago that may have been. Teachers who can’t…don’t get teaching jobs. And those who can, do.