He Who Can, Does: He Who Can Not, Teaches?

May 18, 2011 by

He Who Can, Does: He Who Can Not, Teaches?

“He Who Can, Does: He Who Can Not, Teaches”– George Bernard Shaw, 1903.

Really? But I thought, “It takes a village to raise a child”– Hillary Rodham Clinton, 1996. Teaching is certainly part of raising a human being. 93 transformative years and the opposite sex separate these quotes. Followed by “No Child Left Behind”– George W. Bush, 2001 and most recently, the harsh reality of the arts programs cut to bare bones in American public schools.

Thinking about all of this I glance at my bulletin board in my studio.

I see the photocopied piece of paper that says: “Why Teach Music?” and you know what? Not even a split second of hesitation restrains my answer.

I teach music because I am compelled to pass on the gift that was given to me. I am overwhelmed with the honor and responsibility I have when I am entrusted with a child. I am overjoyed when the beginning lessons unfold into the deeper truths that my students young and old take with them and apply in other areas of their lives. I am touched when I realize that I too am learning, broadening, and stretching because of the impact students have on my life.

So I reach for that piece of paper tacked to the corner of my bulletin board. In short it says music is a science because it is exact and specific. It uses charts and graphs indicating frequencies, intensities and timing. It is mathematical because of the rhythm, subdivisions and fractions. It involves a foreign language, typically Italian. Music is historical and reflects the time, place and culture in which it was written. It is physical education because it requires hand-eye coordination, and both small and large motor skill coordination. Music is art, it allows a human being to take all these dry, technically boring (but difficult) techniques and use them to create emotion. That is one thing science cannot duplicate: human feeling.

Continuing from this faded photo copy I can sincerely quote the final words: I teach music, “NOT because I expect you to major in music; NOT because I expect you to play or sing all your life; NOT so you can relax; NOT so you can have fun; BUT-

so you will be human

so you will recognize beauty

so you will be sensitive

so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world

so you will have something to cling to

so you will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, more good – in short, more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live?”

And finally, I teach music because I can; and I do.

So when I hear the George Bernard Shaw quote applied to a fellow teacher of anything, particularly an art, I remember that it does in fact take a village in order to raise a child so no child will be left behind. That child may be the ever teachable part of each and everyone one of us, regardless of age. Also, I remind myself that we all are teachers all of the time while we are all students in this very small classroom called earth.

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27 Comments

  1. Sweet Jude, please do not feel that way!!! : ) I love the beauty that comes in this community of sharing, really, really, really!!! : ) And, I totally get the way things evolve out of a subject line and I dig that, it’s true, it’s human. And it is a wonderful reminder that our teachers our human, too. And that no matter how much they inspire us to grow, develop and be more than we were when we first stepped into their world, ultimately at night they go home and, just like us, are always learning about the immensely complex wisdom of all things human….. big snug, my friend…. ♡

  2. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    sorry Brooke – won’t hijack your post anymore! <3<3<3

  3. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    I always said to my mother, I get that she loved him – I just don’t get why…

  4. Robin Edinger via Facebook

    probably too close to the subject Jude!

  5. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    I’m glad, Rob. I wish she was able to help me deal with mine!

  6. Robin Edinger via Facebook

    I can see how your mom inspired her students. She inspired me when I was a teenager! She made sense of my conflicting thoughts about how to discuss things with my dad.

  7. Wow…
    I just read through each comment. This is such a wonderful topic, mostly because as Krys said, we are all teachers. If that is hard to believe, try thinking of it this way: we are all teaching all of the time. The awareness of this can be astonishing. But think of it: our children’s eyes and ears our open, our neighbor’s, spouse’s, even our animal’s!
    And as John W. Strobel III mentioned, we are also learning constantly. Thursday I ended classes at the college for the semester and my parting words to my students were thank you for participating in class and for teaching me so much on so many levels.
    Thank you for your wonderful comments!

  8. Sandi Severson

    Wow…
    I just read through each comment. This is such a wonderful topic, mostly because as Krys said, we are all teachers. If that is hard to believe, try thinking of it this way: we are all teaching all of the time. The awareness of this can be astonishing. But think of it: our children’s eyes and ears our open, our neighbor’s, spouse’s, even our animal’s!
    And as John W. Strobel III mentioned, we are also learning constantly. Thursday I ended classes at the college for the semester and my parting words to my students were thank you for participating in class and for teaching me so much on so many levels.
    Thank you for your wonderful comments!
    Sandi Severson

  9. well, I am sorry to say I haven’t read the article..but I will 🙂

  10. I’d venture to say you are all finding the true value of Sandi’s article!!! : )

  11. I never liked that saying, I think it’s rude and condescending that lumps everyone together. Everyone is special in their own way..anyone can “do” anything, it doesn’t mean they are good at it. But NOT EVERYONE can teach. It takes someone really special to teach another something. And even if we are not teachers by profession, we are all teachers in our own way through experiences and things we have done. Everyone has SOMETHING to offer…

  12. On the other hand here is a perspective from one who learned he was not good at teaching. I taught journalism at Moorpark College for one year. When I found that my students were a whole lot smarter than me and that I was the one learning and they teaching me, I decided I had better go back to reporting the news instead of trying to teach it…It was a great experience and one I would not trade a minute of but I found I was not good at teaching, I was a much better student of human behavior than I was a teacher. Then there was the politics of teaching, what many of the teachers did to keep up their ADA (Average Daily Attendance) that verged on “brown nosing” with the college’s hiearchy…Just one man’s opinion but an honest one…JWSIII

  13. To Judith : Your mother sounds like the kind of teacher who made every moment in a classroom count!!! : )

    To Daveed : Thank you, my gentle heart….. ♡

  14. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    Thank you, David. Thank you very much.

  15. David Traub via Facebook

    Bravo, Judith. It even sound to me like Brooke! Such kindness and encouragement!

  16. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    My mother might not have been great at many things, but she was a great teacher! I don’t recall why, perhaps I had a day off and she didn’t (she taught many years in yeshivot), but I sat in on one of her classes once. She was teaching high school at the time, and I was very young. I didn’t understand what they were discussing (a Shakespearean play – my mother’s forte), but what I do recall is how excited her students were – how they all wanted to express their opinions, to show my mother what they had learned, to make her proud. My mother listened to each and every one of them, nodding, smiling, because she knew they GOT it! And when one of them had a difference of opinion, my mother listened. I remember her saying to one girl in particular, who understood a passage differently, “What a great point! But consider this…” She never belittled a student, and always encouraged them to think for themselves.

    Years later, after she had retired, there was rarely a time when we went out together, that we didn’t run into one of her students. And although my mother sometimes didn’t remember them, they always remembered her. Nearly every one of them would turn to me and say, “If it weren’t for your mother, I wouldn’t be a (fill in the blank) now!” She inspired her students to be who they would be, and was a true credit to her profession.

  17. True teachers inspire us to learn because they captivate our imaginations, excite our curiosity and guide our search, and often it is all by happenstance… : )

  18. David Traub via Facebook

    I agree with Judith. The teachers I remember were slightly whacko. My physics teacher slept in his car and cleaned up in the Men’s room at the school. He was such a mess, but he could teach and we learned. My English lit teacher and my art teacher were insane and I loved them both! I would have done anything for either of them. In fact when I moved to CA my English teacher, Mary, used to come visit with her niece Sarah. They had the ability to teach with enthusiasm in common. I ended up even years later being invited to former teacher’s weddings. Rare stuff. I have amazing recall of not only the material but even on specific days what the teacher was wearing when they presented the information and the way it was stated. It had everything to do with the teachers.

  19. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    I don’t know about that, Robert. The fact that you know a tremendous amount about a specific subject, doesn’t necessarily make you a bad teacher, or vice versa. Personally, I think the ability to teach and relate to one’s students is a gift – you either have it or you don’t. I also believe that someone who makes a good pre-school teacher, wouldn’t necessarily be good with older kids.

  20. Usually if a teacher can’t teach it is because that teacher is too intelligent about the subject matter and does not know how to how to communicate to lower terms. Similarly, in sports, usually great athletes make horrible coachs. They cannot relate well to those who do not have as much athletic ability. I find the same to be true in business. Many times those who are very good at producing themselves are very poor at managing others.

  21. Judith L. Goldfarb via Facebook

    Coming from a family dominated by teachers, I’ve always found that comment very insulting. I, too have had many a dud teacher, but those who do it well, who do it with love and passion, pass the greatest gift along to their students – the gift of knowledge!

  22. Wajja Theman via Facebook

    On the other hand, I had some duds. Some “teachers” only like to feed information to you, note for note, little or no discussion, this-is-the-way-it-is learning. I had the most difficult time with that kind of methodology. University lectures don’t turn my pages either… :p

  23. Believers in that statement which demeans teachers need to try teaching and all of the accompanying duties for a year.

  24. Wajja Theman via Facebook

    In high school, ny favourite teachers were my English/Lit. teachers, Mrs. Scarth and Mr. DeVries. Not only did they “teach” the finer bits of how to talk good lol, they made learning the classics fun. Our assignments and interactive exercises were actually fun to do, and very entertaining. I scored my highest marks in those clases 🙂

  25. I had some amazing teachers along the way, and some who were just plain mean and stupid. In all fairness, the teachers I didn’t like probably have some reasonable complaints about me. Ms. Anduss sent home a progress report when I was in 8th grade, describing me as “lazy, unmotivated, uninterested, disrespectful, disorganized, irresponsible…” I don’t know. Almost every negative thing was checked. She didn’t have not one nice thing to say. She appended her own comment, “Kristen is trying (underscored) my nerves!” I don’t even remember what she taught! Math, maybe? Anyway, it turns out, my best teachers have been my own students. Quote for the day, which I keep close to me always: “To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.” Einstein.

  26. Mark Chase via Facebook

    This brings up fond memories of my high school drama teacher..she never made it as an actress but her theories and teaching aided me in my quest with thespian aspirations…I will forever remember her.

  27. Betty Owen

    Very thoughtful/thought-provoking, Sandi. Thanks for teaching…