Don't put down those who teach -- be one
THERE IS an old saying: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." This saying has been adapted for other professions and vocations. One of the most popular altered versions is, "Those who can, do; those who can't, supervise."
The context of this often-repeated phrase might be relevant. However, it is frequently used as a snide remark aimed at one or more individuals under the guise of being a humorous generalization.
It is thoughtless and hurtful to disparage all members of any profession (even lawyers). There are high-caliber performers and lazy, uninspired people in all professions. I've had some great teachers and some lousy teachers, just as I've had excellent supervisors and mediocre supervisors.
It's a shame that the original quote was directed at teachers. While there are some bad apples, most teachers, professors and instructors choose to teach because they have a calling and want to help others learn. Everyone is gifted in different ways. People should be praised more for what they do well and criticized less for the mistakes they make when taking the initiative to learn and attempt new tasks.
My experience has been that the most critical people are those who are least likely to offer assistance to show others how to do a job or task. I once worked with an intelligent, knowledgeable and skilled individual. He excelled as a technician and was a demanding and productive crew chief. Unfortunately, he refused to share information or train anyone. He was harshly critical of other technicians, but when anyone asked him for assistance, his typical response was, "Look it up or figure it out yourself. I learned the hard way, so you can, too."
It's important to be self-motivated and self-sufficient; however, too many who are good at what they do are reluctant to share their knowledge and skills with peers and co-workers. Some people simply do not know how to teach. Other skilled professionals and supervisors are too insecure or impatient to take the time to teach others and demonstrate how to do the job properly.
We are all teachers -- professional educators and instructors who stand in front of classrooms full of students every day and those of us with children, nieces, nephews or trainees at work. Older siblings teach younger brothers and sisters to talk, tie their shoes, ride a bike. Parents teach children to walk, look both ways before crossing the street, that the stove can burn you and ad infinitum.
Those who "can and do" (blue-collar workers, technicians, professionals and others) contribute value to the world in many ways. Teachers, professors and instructors contribute value to the world exponentially through the knowledge, skills and pride in accomplishments passed on to the multitude of students and trainees who become skilled professionals and supervisors.
"Experience is the worst teacher; it gives the test before presenting the lesson." -- Vernon Law
"I believe that every human soul is teaching something to someone nearly every minute here in mortality." -- M. Russell Ballard
"Those who can, teach. Those who can't, do something far less important." -- Shirley Frye
Those who can, do; those who care, teach! Share your knowledge and skills with someone today.
Doc Leeson manages a network training center for the U.S. Air Force. He lives in Mililani.