Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Those who can't ...

Those who can, do. Those who can't teach” - I so want to smack George Bernard Shaw upside the head around the head for that line, and I will probably write again about why this quote enfuriates me so. But why I am posting today is because a few weeks ago I read a letter in the Washington Post that used the quote, along with a diatribe about how teachers are a bunch of useless whiners, and basically wrote off the entire profession. In his letter you could see that he was the sort of person who blamed his teachers for his failings to achieve, rather than his lack of effort. Almost as if the teacher is supposed to simply just fill the student’s head with knowledge, with no effort on the student’s part. I see this all the time. Students who don't go to class, study for exams the night before, don't had in work that was requested, blaming the teacher for being a poor teacher, rather than admitting to their own laziness and/or failings. A professor can be brilliant, but if you don't come to class or watch movies / Facebook throughout class, don't read anything they provide, then all the brilliance in the world can't help. What are they supposed to do - implant knowledge by telepathy. One of my grad students reminded me the other day of this adage: “teachers don't give grades, students earn them”. This is something a lot of students  seem to have forgotten in an age where may have over inflated senses of entitlement.

Here’s a little anecdote. I had a student who I caught watching a Kung Fu movie in class on one of the few times that he did attend - in fact he was so engrossed that he didn't notice me standing behind him. Unsurprisingly the student didn't get the "A" he "needed" in order to go to medical school, and came to me at the end of the semester begging extra credit. I refused and threw him out my office. I probably got a lousy evaluation both officially and on ratemyprofessor for that one. But the student was seriously offended and shocked that I did not give him the “A” he thought he should have. In my day, I certainly slacked off in certain classes, but I didn’t blame my teacher when I was a slacker and didn’t get an A grade, it was my own damn fault for not spending enough time studying and spending too much time in the bar. It seems to me that we are more and more coming to a stage where “Those who can, do. Those who can’t blame someone else.”

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