George Bernard Shaw was a very clever writer with a flair for the memorable soundbite. Unfortunately, one of the clever quips from his play Man and Superman has become a proverb that does a great disservice to the teaching profession:

Bob: I’m so discouraged. My writing teacher told me my novel is hopeless.

Jane: Don’t listen to her, Bob. Remember: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

This often repeated adage implies that teaching is not a profession, that it’s just something anyone can do.

The truth is that teaching is a profession that requires its own battery of skills and character traits.

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

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 cultural 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. A teacher must have a clear idea of what level of achievement is represented by the letter grades of A, B, C, and D. An effective teacher grades according to what a student has learned.

Committed teachers accept a different adage, one coined by Romalda Spalding:

No teaching has taken place unless and until the child learns.

Basic Study Skills
Grading Criteria
“Make-up” Work
“Extra Credit”
Team Projects
Teacher Training