Those Who Can, Do AND Teach

There is a saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

What a load of bollocks.

It’s said as an insult; a derogatory, snide remark to elevate one person and denigrate another.

As a teacher, it’s particularly insulting because it’s my profession, my career, my calling. To teach is to pass on knowledge, information, insight, technique, skills, habits.

To say those who can’t, teach, is to abrogate responsibility of all people to teach one another. 

Fundamentally, every interaction is teaching. We give it different names or titles like coach, mentor, professor, guru, but the interaction is the dissemination of knowledge and the acquiring of skills.

Teaching is an aspect of our relationships with one another. As parents we teach our children right from wrong, good from bad. We teach them to tie shoelaces, ride bikes, make sandwiches, treat people with dignity and respect, how to make friends. We should also teach them to create. Never let a child feel like creativity is a waste of time.

There are skilled and gifted teachers in every creative endeavour and every profession. While they may not receive the praise and accolades of some of their peers at the higher echelons, or their names are not well known, their work is far more significant. They allow the next generation to stand on their shoulders and see further. In turn, they pass on their skills and knowledge to the next generation, hoist them onto their shoulders and help them see further still.

To teach is to create. It creates interest, passion, wonder, curiosity, desire, engagement, questions. It creates a learner.

A student is never greater than the master. No, a master should ensure that the student IS greater than the master. This is creativity. This is teaching. Equip the student with the necessary skills and understandings to excel.

Explore the “family tree” of an artist in whatever medium. See where they came from, who they learned under, what ideas they developed and passed on. Know the origins of your art. 

Understand you can teach someone. It doesn’t require a degree, time in a classroom. Teaching is done in the quiet moments of conversation, time shared over tea and doughnuts.

Those who can, do AND teach. 


7 responses to “Those Who Can, Do AND Teach

  1. Spot on. This saying is a pet peeve of mine.

    • It always reminds me of Taylor Mali’s poem about what teachers make.
      We’re all teachers, not just those of us who inhabit the classroom.

  2. I love this, and as I step into the profession full time soon, I couldn’t agree more! In India, I know they believe “Respect God first, then your parents, stand after that your teacher.” That is the respect teachers should have everywhere… But I know here in the UK, so much had been stripped from teachers, because of laws, and parents themselves belittle teachers in front of their kids, so you have kids as young as 3-4 who don’t have a smidgen of respect for their teachers…
    The job is so important, and as I posted a couple of weeks ago, you can train all you want, to become a teacher, if you think there is nothing else to do, but a great teacher is born, not taught….

    • I’m based in Australia, and I can see the shift towards standardisation so prevalent in the United States. This has prompted Sir Ken Robinson to say that schools are killing kids’ creativity. Schools MUST foster creativity, critical thinking and independence. It is not about quantifiable test scores; it’s about developing students as whole people, not one focus on an academic discipline.
      A great teacher is one who is passionate about his/her career, who wants to invest in the lives of the people they teach. And as importantly, is one who is willing to be taught.

      • So true… I originally trained 18 years ago, after wanting to teach since I was 7… The curriculum here, even then, put me off… And now, when the demands are higher, I’m stepping back in… Hopefully to foster some creativity within my teaching! ☺️

      • Best of luck. Go for it!

      • Thank you so. Ugh… It’s not luck I think I need, but about 4 more hours in the day, the it would be perfect!!! 😁😁

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