Parents as Teachers

A quip attributed to George Bernard Shaw is

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

This often repeated saying does a disservice to the professional teacher.

Many a successful writer, chemist, or computer programmer would be a total failure as a teacher of writing, chemistry, or computer programming.

Thanks to a crisis that has thrust many parents into the role of teacher, the fact that teaching requires a distinct battery of skills and character traits has become clear to a large segment of the public.

In addition to knowing a subject, a teacher must be able to break it down into its essential parts and make it easy for the learner to absorb in a series of steps. A teacher must possess infinite patience, repeating what seems obvious thousands of times if necessary. A teacher must be able to set an achievable standard of excellence and insist on it, regardless of emotional pressures to lower the bar.

Not all children possess the same type of intelligence, the same measure of persistence, nor the same level of academic ability. An effective teacher takes such things into consideration and presents material accordingly.

Remote instruction, presented en masse, while better than nothing, is not as effective as hands-on instruction for specific children.

Let’s alter Shaw’s glib epigram to

Those who can teach, do; those who can’t, do the best they can.

Parents need to stop beating themselves up if they are finding it hard to stand in for their children’s teachers. All they can do is their best.

If you can do nothing else, make time for family reading. Turn off the TV for an hour and read, either separately or together. Talk about what you have read and share new words or ideas you’ve encountered. Formal instruction is only one aspect of education.