Friday, March 21, 2008

Those Who Can - Do, Those Who Can’t – Teach

I heard this, years ago, as the opening lines of an impromptu speech by a famous and dedicated teacher - Dr. N. Ratna, who is considered to be the father of Speech and Hearing in India. I was terribly amused by this quote and how he used it to elaborate the point he wanted to make.

I came home and told this to my father who too is a dedicated teacher. (When he was asked to work on the English – Kannada dictionary project of the University of Mysore, he agreed on the condition that he would be allowed to teach two hours per week in the college he was then teaching in.)

He was not offended by this quote and continued to discuss the subject in a calm and collected way.

I remembered all this, when I read an article by Ms. Veni Sukumar in The Hindu. She seems genuinely offended by the quote and has defended her chosen profession. Good. She has gone on to modify the quote, some of which are really good. For example - “Those who can – achieve, those who are blessed – teach!” Sure.

I want to add a simple twist to the original. “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t – achieve!”

Teaching is a vocation that quite often is also an avocation. Teaching is a state of mind, not a skill. Skills can be taught. These could even improve an already good teacher. But, training one in these skills alone will not a good teacher make.

Unlike most Indians who want to give the final stamp of approval to their arguments, she has not quoted something in Sanskrit.

Indian tradition has it right -“aachArya dEvOBava” आचार्य देवोबव

Please note: I am NOT a teacher. Having had the good fortune of coming across some great teachers, I have great respect for teachers in general and enormous respect for good ones.

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