Those Who Can Teach; Transformative Teachers



ThsWhCnTch

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

In an earlier essay, Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned thoughts on the ever-present influence of George Bernard Shaw’s philosophy were evaluated.  A personal reflection, perchance, helped advance an analogy.  We each are as the Playwright was.  When young, we learn through our experiences.  Later, we are forever challenged to change our perception. Evolutions and beliefs born in emotionally trying times collide.  Intellectually, we may understand, to learn our minds must be open.  Nonetheless, endeavor as we might, most of us remain closed.  Sill, it is never too late.  Greater awareness can come at anytime, in Elementary, Middle, High School or College.  Let us assess anew as we look through the lens, life in school.  

He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches

~ George Bernard Shaw [Man and Superman, 1903]

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw’s adage belies what was the Playwright’s life. The Author, contrary to his own claim, taught and he did.   Indeed, the Dramatist achieved success in each of these endeavors.  In words and through deeds the Writer acted on what he avowed were opposite ambitions. His instruction influenced generations. More than a century after his utterance children are trained to believe as he professed true.  Several ignore the veracity; Shaw’s prolific plays proved that he could successfully and professionally practice in a field as well as serve as the exemplary Educator he was, and is.  Regardless of the misguided reality today crowds continue to chant, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.”

As evidence of this collective less than reflective conviction Americans might merely look at the headlines.  Are Teachers Under Attack?  G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure. Public Workers Face Outrage as Budget Crises Grow. Education under Attack: Violence against Students, Teachers and Schools in Armed Conflicts.  Teachers are forever being questioned.  Students receive much wrath.  Schools are vilified.  Yet few consider why these criticisms might be.  

Instead, we repeat the rhetoric and share our own stories.  I have my memories.  Countless tales could have led me to perceive Professors as, George Bernard Shaw did and society does.  Instead, I acknowledged that what, for me, felt good or bad was a blessing.  Persons whose pedagogical practices would never be mine, taught me how, or how not to teach. I offer tales of two Teachers.  Enter Doctor Mac and Miss Z.

I think of my first computer class.  Doctor Mac, a glorious geek who could build a central processing unit [CPU] with ease.  However, to edify the technologically illiterate such as I was . . .  Well that is another story for another day.  I am aware that many thought Doctor Mac was the preferred Professor. For someone as infinitely analytical as I, his more superficial treatment of the subject did not work well for me.  This magnificent master is one of many who were unable to reach me. Quite the contrary was true. His methods and instruction left me feeling lost.  I was more than frustrated.  I was frightened.  I so yearned to learn!

This thought brings Miss Z to mind.  I had been beyond proficient in Math all of my life until this wiz with numbers became my Teacher.  The jocks loved Miss Z and she was fond of them. In class, the Educator and the athletes discussed how their respective teams did.  Scores.  Stats.  “Sports” was a constant topic of conversation.  Proofs, sometimes.  Some Math problems were shared on the board or on displayed by the light of an overhead projector. I was an A+ Math student.  Yet, under the tutelage of Miss Z, nothing made sense to me.

Before, during, and after class, I asked for further instruction.  I sought other sources, my parents, another Professor, and even Miss Z herself.  My Mom and Dad tried to assist to no avail.  Their skills in math lacked luster.  The other Teacher said unless I was enrolled in her class . . . Oh, how my family and I tried to make that dream come true.  Miss Z? Well, she only knew how to teach in the way she always had.  Her manner was incompatible with my learning style.  I would stand at her side, look on and listen.  Ultimately, each time, I left her presence in tears.

Thankfully, Teachers such as Doctor Mac and Miss Z were the exception in my life.  Most Instructors I met once enrolled in an educational institution were glorious.  On occasion, outside of school, and not only in my childhood home, I was confronted with what also might have shaded my reality.  Perchance, you can relate.

I discovered that a stupendous Teacher can also be a disastrous one, dependent on the lesson.  A phenomenal practitioner can be less than fully effective.  Eric had been an exceptional Teacher in my life..  The man who was my beau was also an excellent driver.  I trust he still is.  Eric learned to use a manual transmission early in his own hours on the road.  By the time we were together he was a pro.  Eric could shift gears flawlessly.  He did not bump or grind, nay pop a clutch. This lovely man is in addition a patient professor.  Cheerfully, he chose to teach me. Eric Smythe would move me from automatic to stick shifts, or so he and I believed.

I imagined he would be, as in every other avenue we traveled together, a fine facilitator.   However, this turned out not to be true.  The loving man was thorough in his “lessons.” Too thorough for me!  I felt as if he believed he needed to teach me to steer, turn, and travel the roadways as though I had not done this for years.  

I, who received an A+ grade in Drivers Education, was treated as a neophyte.  While Eric was patient with me, the young Mister Smythe drove me bonkers. He, too carefully, crafted his lesson.  

Eric could do and teach.  Nonetheless, this combination was not enough.  Trained Teachers take the art and science of instruction seriously.  Professors understand the gravity of their performance.  Expert Educators never forget that what a Teacher imparts influences more than a single person.  His or her words and deeds will likely affect generations, perchance all of humanity.  Notes from former and present pupils remind a Teacher at most every turn.  Often a glance from a frustrated student, from one fond of learning, or a gaze off into space during a lecture, tells a tutor in the immediate that every moment matters.

Unlike George Bernard Shaw,  I often say, “Those who can, Teach!”  Education is an art and science. More than hand-eye coordination is required.  Task analysis too is not enough to teach.  Facts, formulas, and figures do not offer focus.  Fellowship must follow.  An instructor is not as a friend, whom students engage with for fun.  He or she, when devoted to excellence in education, is so much more.  

We learn from words.  Actions too deliver a message.  Communications and contact inform us.  When an Author writes, a Performer presents, a relative rants, rages, or roars with laughter, he/she advances awareness.  The intended quality of the instruction does not determine whether a lesson is learned.  Care and compassion count.

The mind is no match with the heart in persuasion; constitutionally is no match for compassion.

~ Everett M. Dirksen [Senate Minority Leader 1959 ~ 1969]

We all have had poor Teachers.  Some are known as Parents others Peers. Even progeny and Playwrights offer instruction.  What separates Teachers from the rest of these Educators is a philosophical preference, awareness for what George Bernard Shaw and society-at large misses.

Several sage scholars have devoted a lifetime of study to pedagogy, patience, and principles that further empathy through education.  These persons practice profound theories that others do not feel they have time let alone tolerance to pursue.  

Educators have lived, learned, and to this day understand, our experience of Teachers is unique.  What is dreadful for one student is delightful for another,  Instructors dare to challenge the myth that lives large in our lexicon.  They brave a collective consciousness and verve that states Shaw’s statements are wise. The thought Teachers cannot do, while our standard, is flawed.  A deeper reflection reveals the dynamism that is on display daily.

Perhaps, as a nation we might ponder the damage done when Parents, policymakers, and pundits posit; Educators are know-nothing, do-nothing. less than motivated individuals. Might we consider how the theme discourages children, let alone Educators?  A young mind could easily question why should I go to school only to sit with a failure?  

Could it be that toddlers and tots are wounded when in a desire to criticize, Moms and Dads mention the maxim in regards to an Instructor.   Might we as a society have given birth to many a self-fulfilling prophecy and a generation of students at risk?

Might we embrace  careers in education and those who take on the identity of Teacher.  

If we had, imagine what society could have been. Instead of a culture that adopts evidentiary erroneous beliefs as our truth, or a country commonly known as a dropout nation, we might have given rise to students who soar.

Possibly, beginning today we will agree, each of us had mentors who were accomplished in their field.  We had and have excellent Educators.  Most of us also had more than our fair share of miserable mentors. “He who can, did, does; and teaches.”  Indeed, we are all great Teachers to someone.   We have no choice; we can do nothing else. For as living, breathing beings, we constantly engage and exchange.  We share ideas and inspire others.  That by definition is education.

References and Resources . . .

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Those Who Can Teach; Life Lessons Learned



ThsWhCnTch

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches

~ George Bernard Shaw [Man and Superman, 1903]

“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

I heard the words for as long as I recall. The meaning was intricately  woven into my mind. I, as all little children since George Bernard Shaw scribed his belief, “He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches,” was taught to believe that Teachers could choose no other career.  Educators, entrusted with children’s lives were indeed, incapable beings.  These individuals had tried and failed to perform well in professions that required intellect and, or dexterity.  Because the incompetent were inept, they fled to schools and identified themselves as “Teachers.”  In classrooms, less than sage scholars could teach with little authentic expertise.  Today, as a culture, Americans choose to prove this erroneous truth.  Grading the Teachers: Value-Added Analysis.

Happily, our fellow citizens dismiss the “scientific” evidence that amasses.  In our stupor we embrace Value-Added Analysis, disregard the research revealed in a 2010 Department of Education report, Error Rates in Measuring Teacher and School Performance.  “Consideration of error rates is especially important when evaluating whether and how to use value-added estimates for making high-stakes decisions regarding teachers.”  

Americans do as they have done for well over a century; they look to those they love for guidance and validation, be it George Bernard Shaw or the Gates Foundation.   One loosely proclaims Teachers are incapable. The other spends $45-million dollars only to assert what his organization hoped to prove Study supports teacher ratings.  Yet, in truth the findings are extremely flawed.  Thus, is the logic of learning.  As a society rarely do we reflect upon the original source of the “sage” wisdom we subscribe to.

The “Decline Effect” escapes us.  Might it be that ignorance is bliss?  Perchance, in regards to lessons learned, and unlearned, it is.

How Do We Learn or Unlearn?

Let us begin with a look behind the statement that sways the public, the story of George Bernard Shaw. Historical records reveal, the Playwright loathed his primary Professor, his father.  Possibly, this detail supports my own truth, and perchance yours.  A number of those who provided lessons never knew they did.  Moms are mentors.  Dads are guides.  It is why any of us may accurately muse, “more is caught than taught.”  George Bernard Shaw learned from a master he detested.  Thus, as a child, Shaw concluded, those who counsel are not qualified to give advice.

I acknowledge, a few erudite individuals had no idea they taught or that they were my best tutors, even by being the worst.  This is true in homes and equally the case in classrooms.  Even in exchanges with random Educators we meet in life, be they the butcher, the baker, or candlestick maker, some sages teach us in sensationally pleasant ways.  Others offer lessons that are authentically painful to us.  Nonetheless, we learn.  I believe had George Bernard Shaw not been so severely scarred in his childhood home, he too would have acknowledged this wisdom.

Frequently, Mommies and Daddies seem, as Shaw might ascribe, anathema as Teachers.  My biological parents could have been characterized this way, and each was by a sibling or two.  I share.

When I was a toddler, I learned to walk, to talk, and to toilet train myself.   Granted, in the abstract, I had role models.  Concretely? Not so much.  Hence, my guru was my own grit and gumption.  Later, in my youth, I sought a scholar when I wanted to study how to ride a bicycle.  

Mommy and the man who was called father were busy.  They had but minutes a day to help me work on maintaining my balance. The automobile parked safely in the garage had hours to spend.  Therefore, I held the little Rambler’s hand or she held mine.  For days, I devoted much time to circling the car.  With one palm on the vehicle and the other on the handlebars, I went round and round until finally I trusted myself to do other than lean.  Then, I let go.  My Teacher, the red Rambler, released me from what seemed a spell only when she sensed I understood.  

The steel scholar had not pushed me; nor pulled me down.  That sweet metallic body let me be “me.”   Munificence, benevolence, largesse, and the gift of trust are qualities that few have.  I know not if these can be taught.  I do believe that if they are learned, a semester of lessons is not enough.

As a very young child, I realized that no one around me was an authentically patient prospect.  People pretended whilst they profess, they knew the way.  I can; therefore, I will teach is often the stated premise.  In actuality, in my life, the knowledgeable are frequently ill equipped to provide quality instruction.  Less inspire.  However, early on and even today, I do not endorse the conventional wisdom. “Mature” men and women posit, “My mother and father did the best they could.”  I would disagree.

My theory is less than lovely parents teach in manners, perhaps somewhat different, still, similar to those their parents favored.  Teachers do too.  If an Instructor learned to maintain an emotional distance, to lecture, rather than relate to a whole child, he or she will embrace this method.  If statistics, scores, and specific learning strategies spoke to a Teacher when they were a student, the probability is high that techniques that utilize such conventions will be their chosen standard.

I learned from my Mom who transformed before my eyes, this was her truth . . . that is until she realized how her path had hurt her children. Thus, I trust Teachers too can chose to be aware of how they ways work or are less effective for any learner.  Countless do.  Fortunately for me, innumerable gurus  have been my guides, much more so than the musings of George Bernard Shaw ever were.  

I wonder. In the world of teacher evaluation might we examine our beliefs more closely.  Could we not learn from a bit of real life reflection.   Let us not so quickly endorse the data that proves what we came to believe in childhood.   May each of us take a moment to sit with our reveries.  Reason.  Evaluate the history of “decline effects.” Might we ponder the vast body of research results that do not merely restate or support simplistic, long-sanctioned, supposed “solutions.”  Let us hold dear our personal memories and recall, not every Teacher is anathema to the notion of education. I ask you to have faith as I do; those who can do teach!

References for a repeated reality . . .

Profundity of Peace on Earth



MrryChrstmsHppyNwYr

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

This year, Christmas and New Years Days were days of intense reflection.  Perchance, that is true every year and for every individual.  I cannot know what is true for others.  I am only certain that on each of these dates I was immersed in a rigorous course of study.   My gifts or the curriculum came wrapped in a routine event.

The lessons covered were Empathy and Education, although perhaps these were presented in reverse order.  Possibly, the truer program was entropy  and encouragement.  Each edifies.  I wonder; on each of the two days these topics were intertwined.  In my attempt to analyze and understand what I needed to learn or did, I invite your assessments.  Please indulge me as I share the story.

Each was a sunny Saturday.  On neither of the dates, December 25, 2010 or January 1, 2011, was I locked in a classroom.  Nor did I enter a library, a lecture hall, or school.  Indeed, no walls surrounded me.  I was as I am every Saturday of the year, with one exception, at the “Peace Corner.”  The name was given to the intersection of two major highways in my local community years ago.  Then, people came out weekly to stand vigil for global harmony.  That time was long ago, and far, far, far away.  

In the last thirteen months or so, more often than not, I appear at the crossroads alone.  My constant companions are my thoughts and signs.  One sign is but the index and middle fingers held high in a gesture of peace.  The other is  a single poster that reads “Love! Not War. Love!”

On occasion, one or two other persons also grace the Peace Corner.  However, if either of these individuals appears, they and I do not stand together. Hence, regardless of the Saturday, I place me, myself, and I on the Northwest side of the streets.  I have no desire to engage in conversation with another activist.  I only wish to connect with passer-bys.  Eye contact with drivers and walkers is all I need.  

At times, someone approaches me from the street.  Others offer opportunities to share as they travel down the sidewalk.  I am open to learn from these chance encounters.  Admittedly, I cannot be sure what will be said, done, thought, before or after an exchange.  I can only accept that I will be touched, intrigued, quiz, and question for myself, what does it all mean.  

Christmas Day, or the date customarily adopted in America as the holy day, gave gifts I have yet to comprehend.  In 2010, the streets were bare.  Nary an automobile was in site.  Egrets were everywhere.  I pondered.  Might these lovely white birds anxiously await the celebration each December.  The quiet calm truly captured my attention and theirs.  The lovely herons swooped and dove gracefully through the air.  When an occasional automobile appeared on the scene, stopped as required by a red directional signal, uncharacteristically, the two-legged winged animals perched themselves atop the metallic being for the minutes of immobility.

I have never seen the Egrets more enthusiast, energetic, and serene.  The dance these creatures did was well orchestrated, I felt as though I had been given front-row seats to a theatre production meant only for the privileged few.  That is, until the silence was broken.  

On this Christmas Saturday, as pious people prayed in churches, or gathered together with loved ones a man sped through the intersection.  Upon seeing my signs, or the little person I am, he screamed.  “F**k You!”  Yes.  Whilst the religious recognized a devout devotion to the deity donned the Lord, this grateful gent appreciated the chance to vent.  I can only speculate.  In what way did my presence, my message or I, offend his sensibility.  What was stirred within him?  Likely, I will never know.

A pedestrian, a far gentler soul voiced his view of the occurrence.  With a knowing smile, the man who stood within inches of me moments later said of the other, “He’s just stu**d.”  Since I think no one can be characterized in such a manner, this answer did not satisfy my curiosity.  Nor did it suffice.  However, I cannot imagine that I might be granted an opening to ask the aggressor what disturbed him so.  I do not envision a day when we might meet.  I have faith divine intervention is a possibility.  I will not hold my breath.  

The day went on.  Once this person passed the tranquility of the day returned.  Fascinating to me, people were less receptive to my presence than they are normally, on every other Saturday.  In a time thought to define “Peace on Earth” and “Goodwill to all men,” there was little shown to my signs or me.  Having been at the Peace Corner for sooooooooo many years, I thought this was truly odd.  Why might it be that more kindness and care is shown on days that do not honor Christ’s birth?  Entropy?  I have my theories, although I rather hear yours.

If you would, please consider what I think might be a lesson presented in tandem.  Today.

New Years Day 2011, was equally, actually more unusual.  In the last decade, never have people been so very responsive to my message or me.  I would have imagined that with increased traffic, a focus on shopping and sales, a fervent desire to dash hither and yon, a far less consecrated day would deliver far fewer acknowledgements of peace.  Yet, the opposite was true.  Everywhere I turned, and I do face the oncoming traffic, be it going North, South, East, and West, people smiled.  Countless placed their fingers in a sign of peace.  Car horns honked constantly and not at other vehicles.  Drivers made certain that I knew these toots were meant for me.  Car loads of persons young, old, and all ages in-between waved to me.  Hands were held high in a sign of accord.  Out of many a window, from each side of a car, fingers flew in a gesture that mirrored my own.

Suddenly, near the end of my hour at the crossroads, a late model, newly washed burgundy Sports Utility Vehicle approached.  A nicely dressed woman drove nearer.  She wore a black print dress and a huge smile.  Her raven colored hair was long, lush, and curly.  In the passenger seat, nearer to me, sat a nice-looking man.  His shirt was well-pressed, long sleeved, and as white as his bright grin.  Each seemed excited to see my.  I thought perhaps they were lost and hoped I was a local who would provide directions.

That turned out not to be the case.  Elatedly, the woman spoke.  She said, “I see you here every week.”  Breathlessly, she continued.  “About a month ago, I decided to buy a book for you.”  More animated with each word she uttered, she said, “I have looked for you every Saturday since. ”  I assured her, I was there every week, even on the most recent Saturday passed, Christmas Day.  I thought possibly she came by before or after I left in earlier weeks.  I did not have time to inquire.  Impatient with glee and happy to finally connect, the sweet stranger presented me with the tome.  Grateful for the expression of kindness, I quickly read the large type, “An Endless Falling in Love.”  

Unfamiliar with the title, I thanked her and thought of how special it is.  My mere presence inspired her to think thoughts of love.  The pair said “God bless.” Each thanked me for doing as I do.  Then, as traffic whizzed by, the vehicle merged into the flow.  In an instant they were out of sight.  

Curious, I tried to scan the cover.  Yet, I did not wish to neglect what for me is my priority while at The Peace Corner, the people as they pass.  I tucked the paperback behind my poster and continued to receive the endless warm welcome acknowledgements.  For many minutes more, the air was filled with  friendly exchanges.  When it was time for me to be with me and  continue the day, I read on.  I discovered the manuscript was more religious than spiritual.  The woman had handwritten a somewhat personal or practical note.  She shared her name and the name of the church she is affiliated with.

While I am not a follower of a religious faith, for doctrines do not fill me with delight, I am nonetheless extremely touched.  As one who believes that we each have a profound effect on all others, I am grateful for the recognition.  The couple’s choice to come close to me, to grace me with goodwill, and bestow benevolence in the form of a book and bequest . . . this is special to me.  Encouragement.  I think it is Part Two of an intensive study I trust has not ended.

The lessons I learned thus far from the woman I will call Donna and the aggressive distressed man whom I met on Christmas Day taught me. Empathy and Education come at us from every direction.  Entropy and encouragement are also encountered.  These qualities greet us on each avenue. Compassion, connections, and  a chance to comprehend find us on street corners.  Often we do not understand the messages or do not relate to the thoughts in a manner consistent with their intent.  Still, unexpectedly, we are edified.

Mostly, we never know what another hopes to teach us.  Nonetheless, I have no doubt, we learn from and with each other.  Be it a holiday, a holy day, a hump day, or just a day, we gain knowledge.  Please tell me, what did you learn from my story, or your own.  Whatever it is, I feel certain that your experience, interpretation, and mine, will be wondrous, for each of us is a glorious Teacher.



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