Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Those who can..."

I grew up in a family of educators. My Dad was a teacher, Principal, and eventually Superintendent of Schools in my hometown. My Mom was a well-respected English teacher in a neighboring school district. The home I grew up in encouraged me and my two sisters to be academically curious and engaged in our school work on a daily basis. We were expected to get good grades. We were encouraged to learn how to play musical instruments. We were encouraged to participate in leadership activities. We were encouraged to join school clubs and student government. We were active in our church. There were high expectations in our home and each of us succeeded in our classes and in our activities.  We were also expected to be of the highest character and we took it seriously.  So did most of my friends.

When it was time to select a college major, I considered many different avenues. I had a feeling that music would be a good choice, but I wasn't sure what I should do.  In the end, it was clear to me that my parents felt that it would be a noble choice to choose education. They knew the life of a teacher and encouraged me to follow that path. They made sure that I knew that teaching was not a life oriented towards getting rich or owning a large home. It was a life built on scholarship, service to others, character, and true engagement in a community. While I wasn't sure that I wanted to be a teacher, education seemed like a smart initial choice for a college major.  It also offered the most clear path to an actual job following graduation for me.

While in college, I succeeded again. I was a top musician at my university, graduated Summa Cum Laude, and did my best to be a leader in the music community and broader community at my university. I still remember the day my professor told me, "You don't know it yet, Scott, but you are a teacher." I student-taught with distinction and graduated with a strong knowledge base, a high level of musicianship, and a real passion for teaching that was a result of contact with mentors who truly cared for me and helped me find my path. I left college ready to impact some community with my talents,  knowledge, and passion for music and string education.

It wasn't long after I graduated that I first heard the phrase: "those who can't do, teach." That phrase caught me completely off-guard. I couldn't believe it. I had spent my entire life going to school, enjoying school, and really investing my heart and soul into the process of learning. I respected my teachers. Yes, I even loved my teachers. My parents, whom I respected at every level, had invested their passion and intellect in public school education. Suddenly I was finding out that people disrespected the teaching profession. Truly, it caught me completely off-guard. 

As I continued pursuing the teaching career I couldn't have been more impressed with my colleagues I was around people every day who loved their jobs, loved their students and work, and completely committed to scholarship at the highest level. This has been the case nearly every day since I started teaching over 30 years ago.  My experience has been that the vast majority of teachers are very similar to me: committed, ethical, intellectually curious, and caring.

Of course everyone has some experience with "that teacher." The teacher who doesn't work so hard and isn't as committed to the highest levels of scholarship as all of the other teachers. But, that person is the exception to the rule. The vast majority of teachers that I have encountered over the years are true academics,  hard workers, and unbelievably committed to working for students and excellence at every level.

I recently opened my Facebook to read a scathing article about the incompetence of young people today and ultimately misguided teachers and public education.  The article asserted that young people are coming out of public schools with low knowledge and high sensitivity.  The article asserted that students from private schools and wealthy homes may be an exception, but that public education is producing a society of misinformed, low character, college graduates.  I read it as a complete attack on public education and teachers in general.  I can't believe that group of people who work so hard for the public good would be the brunt of this kind of misinformation. So, please hear me.  The vast majority of public school teachers I have encountered in my 30 year career are exceptional scholars. They are folks that are selflessly committed to the public good. They are people who are academically curious and of the highest character. They are people who love their students. They love their subjects. And they honor and respect people of all colors, races, sexualities, genders and backgrounds.

Now I know that you can find almost anything on social media nowadays.  Folks have all sorts of agendas and political leanings.  And, I certainly can't give that one article too much of my time and attention.  It is certainly representative of one groups misguided opinion.  As for me, I am proud to have chosen teaching as my profession and passion.  And I am pleased that teaching has chosen me. For all you teachers out there, these kids need us.  They need our  scholarship, our guidance, our care, and our encouragement.  Keep fighting the good fight. And remember: those who can, teach!

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