Those Who Can

11 Aug

My family grows teachers.  My dad’s a teacher. My mom’s a teacher. Aunts and cousins, too. But I’ve always wrinkled my nose at the profession. Probably a result of an ill-seeded “those who can, do; those can’t, teach” planted by some haphazard farmer years ago.

So instead of following my parents into the world of lesson plans and chalkboards, I decided to major in business management. All the world’s a business, my 17-year-old self reasoned.  I figured if I understood the basic principles, I could simply apply them to my actual interests and skills.  Ironically, my journey away from the family business has led me through the back doors of countless classrooms. One in particular still sticks with me. 

While in college, I volunteered to teach budgeting and finance to a group of Boston seniors. My first day, I borrowed a suitemate’s car to travail the slick roads to the local T station to park and ride for the Wellesley suburbs to the inner city school. My first accident. Yep. The lot attendant yelled to the top of his lungs and lunged from the car as I entered the parking lot from the wrong direction and scraped the car’s side beneath the mechanical arm. Let’s just say from then on, I  took a cab.

When I  first arrived to the classroom, laptop in tow, I quickly surveyed the room. The materials provided by the organization were all online: a wonderful lesson with audio I’d coupled with a hand-made Powerpoint presentation. My smile faded when I realized  all this room had was an old school transparency projector, a chalkboard and a computer with broken speakers.

As I scrambled to scribble keywords atop the cooking transparency with a salvaged marker, I traveled over 2,000 miles and 2,000 days back in time to the classes of my youth. To the cramped portables where the same eerie glow of the transparency machine highlighted long-division, verbs and science words. I smiled as I remembered the sea of faces that I watched stand over that light as I did then while the class chatted in the background. 

And instantly became grateful. For technology and resources that I had in high school and college that I had somehow learned to take for granted. For the good teachers who believed in me, encouraged me to dream beyond my neighborhood, city, state and country. And for the bad ones who showed me that teaching probably would never be for me. P.S. I’m a horrible teacher. The kids were kind and gave me points for personality, but they honestly already knew more about budgeting before my broke anti-budgeting college self even entered the door.

To manage, mold and grow the world’s most precious resources is its most important industry and most lucrative business and most blaring bottom line.  I now know it takes a special type of person to succeed.  Those who can, should teach. And those who can’t should find ways to support them politically, financially, mentally and spiritually.

“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.”

Maggie  Gallagher

“There are two kinds of of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”
Robert Frost

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”

“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well”
Alexander the Great


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