The adage “Those that can’t do, teach” has long perpetuated a misguided perception of the teaching profession. This statement implies that individuals who are not successful practitioners in their respective fields resort to teaching as a last resort. However, this notion fails to recognise the valuable expertise, passion, and dedication that educators bring to their classrooms. 

So not only is the adage wrong, it’s insulting to the hard work that the vast majority of educators put in to their teaching efforts. And that shall not stand.

Expertise and Knowledge

Contrary to the misconception, effective teaching requires a deep understanding of the subjects being taught as well as the pedagogy required to accurately pass that knowledge on.

Educators invest years in acquiring specialised knowledge through formal education, professional development, and experience. Often, they are subject matter experts who have simply chosen to teach, having earned qualifications like a PGCE to make that possible. 

They have earned expertise over their lifetime that lets them teach complex concepts effectively and create memorable learning experiences for the students in their classrooms. 

Skilled teachers not only have a deep understanding of their subjects, but they also dynamically adapt to their audience and relate what they are trying to teach to the diverse needs and backgrounds of their students.

This is a complicated and challenging task; anyone that says otherwise has never taught anything.

Mentorship and Guidance

Teaching extends beyond the mere transfer of knowledge; it involves encouraging growth, providing mentorship, and guiding students toward success. Skilled teachers act as role models and motivators through the time they spend with their students, in addition to being and facilitators of learning. The best ones create supportive classrooms that encourage students to explore their potential, set goals, and discover new ways to overcome obstacles. 

By simply pitching up in their students’ lives and providing an adult reference point for youngsters to learn from, teachers do several things: first, they inspire and empower students to develop critical thinking skills; second, they embrace challenges; and lastly, they inspire a lifelong love for learning. 

All of these capabilities are essential in the modern workplace, where lifelong learning is not only encouraged but almost required to just keep up because the world changes so quickly.

Building Skills and Shaping Futures

Teachers play an important role in shaping not only the future of individuals, but of society itself. They do this by equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to become productive citizens who contribute to the economy.

The most effective teachers also teach effective communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, working well with others, and adaptability, in addition to imparting academic knowledge.

Through their guidance and consistent presence in their students’ lives, teachers inspire confidence, build resilience and create a sense of purpose in those they teach.

Educational Impact and Influence

Even more importantly, the impact of skilled teachers extends far beyond the classroom walls. They inspire a love for learning, ignite curiosity, and inspire positive change.

By nurturing critical thinking and promoting empathy, teachers foster the growth of informed citizens capable of challenging societal norms and, ultimately, making the world a better place. These are not the actions of people who “can’t do”.

Furthermore, the influence of great teachers can last a lifetime. There are many great examples of teachers having an impact beyond the classroom, including our very own Madiba. His primary school teacher, Miss Mdingane, recognised his potential early on and encouraged him to embrace education as a means of overcoming obstacles and building character. Madiba mentions her fondly in his book “The Long Walk to Freedom”, as someone who had a positive influence on his life.

A misguided stereotype, debunked

The notion that teaching is a refuge for those who cannot succeed in their respective fields is nonsense because it fails to recognise the expertise, dedication, and impact of effective teachers.

Skilled educators offer specialised knowledge, mentorship abilities, and have the power to shape minds and futures. It is high time we debunk this misguided stereotype and instead celebrate the invaluable contributions of educators in shaping our society.