It Doesn't Mean You Can Teach

It's 1975 and I am a freshman in college. Like education majors everywhere, I have to take an Intro to Psych class. I'm excited about it really. Here's a class that  will actually relate to what I want to do with my life. I show up at 8:00am the first day of class.

In shuffles my professor.  A wizened man of indeterminate age.  Tufts of hair stand out at all angles (I see it gray in my memory, but the yearbook shows me differently) and he speaks to us in a thick Austrian accent ( I didn't know what accent at first, I just knew he was hard to understand). This is my psychology professor, Professor W.

Professor W tells us we will not be using the introductory psych book, instead, we will be using his textbook and learning a new language he has developed. Learning to speak "Aui" will allow us to communicate with extra-terrestrials when they arrive on Earth.  Mind you, this is a few years before E.T  or Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

He gives us a pretest.

I score  the highest score in my class, missing only one.


I go to class every day for a few weeks.  He shares his life at times. He grew up in the Austrian court before "the war" because his father was the tutor to the royal children.  He went to prestigious schools and traveled the world.

The man was a genius. He quoted Shakespeare, recited chemistry equations, spoke several languages fluently, and expected the same of us.  He was quite disgusted one day to find that we didn't know all that he did.

But he couldn't teach.

He also couldn't find his way out of a paper bag.  In the winter, some would take his well worn path in the snow around a tree, which he would follow for a very long time before he figured out he wasn't going anywhere. He forgot his family in a large city about an hour away. He was the classic absent-minded professor. According to our governor's education plan, he would be a great candidate for the teacher education programs in the state of Iowa.

I, however, wouldn't.

Having a 3.0 doesn't mean you will automatically be a good teacher. It mostly means you play the school game well.

  • It means you can regurgitate volumes of information. 
  • It means you can recite vocabulary words.
  • It means you can fill in the mad minutes sheet.
  • It means you can diagram a sentence.
  • It means you can take a test and fill in the bubbles.
It doesn't mean you can teach.


  1. I guess I could say 'ar-r-rgh!', and I'm not sure what else to say. It's such a tragedy that no one asks teachers what the criteria should be. Sorry that there are those out there making more money than teachers are putting out these plans, and textbooks, and tests. And it goes on... Thanks for the insight, Deb. (I had a similar French professor, but he did speak French, just didn't teach us.)

  2. I have been waiting and watching for a post that may have been spurred by the pre-state-visit institute day you had recently. I am wondering if this might be one such post. Regardless, I wish Obama's words last night: "Teachers matter," were truly followed through on by politicians. Why can't the people within the system realize that the system is made up of humans, and humans can not be quantified.

    On a more positive note...are you considering the All-Write Summer Institute?? It would be awesome to meet you!

  3. Couldn't have said it better myself. Great example!

  4. Not everyone is a teacher. But I've "met" none through these blogs who aren't true "born to be a teacher" teachers.
    We had an astronomy professor who should not have been teaching. It's funny, but it seems typically the prestige goes to the teachers/professors who teach in colleges, when the true teaching is taking place well before that.


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