Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach.
Now, everybody teaches somebody something. You learn all the time, just by observing. It’s when people take the position of identifying themselves as instructors that begin to scrutinize any desired influence they may wish to have upon us.
It was George Bernard Shaw in his four act drama of 1903 entitled Man and Superman who is credited with the saying. Though, Woody Allen did a reframe of the saying in School of Rock, (oddly enough, 100 years later in 2003) when it is said, “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”
The saying is really intended to disparage teachers, to put them in their place with an irreverence for their contribution to society as a default from the failure of their pursuits.
There is some truth and some misleading guidance from the phrase.
On our independent journey in life we really have many, many teachers who fit the description quite well. Unfortunately, for me I discovered it at the premature age of ten.
I have been fortunate to have never suffered the truth of the phrase except twice in my life. Both times, they were female teachers. This is no besmearing of females, be cause the law of averages is heavily weight to the favor of female instructors over male instructors for my entire academic career (43 females to 7 males).
Instructors have the challenge of introducing knowledge by virtue of the subject matter and not according to the interests of the learners. That’s a distinct disadvantage in the quest for independent journeys.
Some group of academics get together and say that in general all students need exposure to these subject matters, most of which are introduced far too early for any genuine thirst for knowledge to be whetted in the minds of the instructed.
Instead, it’s a matter of time, a matter of the volume of materials to be brought before the instructed and a matter of giving some evidence the feat has been accomplished. Thus, public school to the masses.
In an attempt to circumvent the cattle call approach, some well-meaning adult in the life of the young instructed believes it best to introduce a tutor as an independent path.
All that does is accentuate the disconnect. The tutor is chosen for precise acquaintance with the subject matter, not an acquaintance with the instructed. Only the slightest thought is given as to compatibility between the tutor and the instructed.
The instruction relationship is totally about transfer of knowledge.
Now, that is not a bad outcome, but it is not an independent journey.
It is by design an adult to child relational spectrum, never a peer to peer or adult to adult. The respect always defers to the instructor, the power always deriving from the informed to the uninformed, the initiated to the uninitiated.
How can mutual respect be established if the only respect given from the learned to the unlearned is the aptitude to learn?
We might as well reduce all problems to the prospect of their outcomes rather than the journey we take to get there. Let all math problems be evaluated by their conclusion rather than the process to gain their conclusion. Let all conversations be measured by how they end, rather than the content of their composition.
That’s the comparison between instructors and life coaches. Life coaches are focused on the experience of their coachee and how the coachee reasons, not how much information can be regurgitated back in the same form as it was given.
A life coaches says: “what tests have you faced this past week,” rather than, “what questions did you miss?”
A life coach measures the learning, not the knowledge.
The distinction between a life coach in the classroom and an instructor in the class room is this:
A life coach understands that life gives the test and the lesson follows. An instructor gives a lesson and then issues the test.
A life coach discovers the test for the coachee, and the instructor administers the test to the unlearned.
A life coach is partner along an independent journey, not a tour guide that directs the unlearned along the path of knowledge, constantly saying, “Be sure to stay on the path. Do not wonder off the path.”