283. Those Who Can’t Do

Once, I participated in a workshop that focussed on “mid-life transitions.” I was in my late thirties, but since, like everyone else, I didn’t know how long I’d live, I figured I might as well face whatever mid-life issues I needed to face – try to get them over with. The presenter was eloquent. One of his central points was that if you can teach, you can do just about anything.
At first, it didn’t sound right. There were other careers I’d considered, and I’d decided against some of them because they’d seemed too difficult. Eyebrows around the room were raised. What was this guy doing? Trying to trick us into retiring early? But I think we were hearing something that was meant to therapeutically contradict the usual message teachers get: “Those who can’t ‘do,’ teach.”
Now that I’m retired, I realize just how wrong that message is. By my standards, teaching an entire class of children is no longer something I can do. Once in a while, a teacher in whose class I’m volunteering has to take a phone call in the office, or has some other reason to need to leave the room (teachers are human, too), and asks me to “watch” the class. By this time, the necessary large group lesson has happened already, or some alternative is already in place. But still, this can’t happen too often. I don’t have the necessary energy. Leaving the class with me is better than leaving it unattended, but it doesn’t take long for me to start hoping the teacher hurries back.
Teaching is work. Real work. The kind of work labor songs should be sung about. And it’s not just mental work, although that counts, too. Teaching can involve a lot of moving around. It’s not like being a guru; it can’t always be done as effectively in lotus position. I know. The year before I retired, I tried to teach without doing the physical work involved.
I asked the custodian to display some of the work children did. I put my student teacher in charge of scenery and choreography for the class play. An artistically talented teaching assistant took care of my bulletin boards. Other teachers took my recess duty. Parent volunteers helped out, too. The amount of support I got was heartwarming. But the bottom line was, the job was work, and required a lot of energy.
Take a good look at even physically healthy teachers after a day of work. I think you’ll notice that most of them look tired. Even the ones who have had successful, invigorating days. While I’m still not sure that people who can teach can do just about anything, I’m quite sure that those who can teach can “do”.

Comments are closed.