Analytical 5: Teachers

23 September, 2016


Teachers and teaching is an undervalued skill set and I try to correct a somewhat dismissive mangled old adage.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. If you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analyzed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network and to support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. And for other great shows, visit today. Teachers. Those that can't do teach. So I'm told. It seems like a horribly glib generalisation. And the truth is it's actually a mangled expression that was originally by George Bernard Shaw's four-act drama in 1903 called Man and Superman. The original quote actually is, he who can does, he who cannot teaches. I think that the supposition is that if you're capable of doing a task, then it's more worthwhile to do the task or it's more useful to execute that learned task than it is to teach someone else that task. So at least that's the idea. I mean, we live in an information age and as cliched as that sounds, it is really true. Finding information or frankly misinformation has never been so fast and so easy. So what's the point, what's the value of education and teaching and teachers, in fact? What's the point if data is already there at our fingertips? All we're going to do is type it in. Apart from the circular notion, of course, of I don't know what I don't know, so I don't know what to search for. Beyond that, if you have an idea what you're searching for, then what is the value if you can understand what you can find what is the value of teachers exactly. So retention of facts in our brains is almost irrelevant when you've got Google and the Internet. And it's a huge database of knowledge. It's got knowledge from all sorts of walks of life and different professions, thousands of years, probably, if you add it all up, of human experiences. And we can search it all through a few strokes on the keyboard. It's kind of amazing, actually, when you stop and think about it. So, if all of that data retention in our own brain, in our memory is no longer the point, if it's no longer relevant, well, then, you know, what is the point of teaching? So, I guess from my point of view, teaching is more about inspiration. Can I convey knowledge over and above just data? Because data is just data and anyone can read it and interpret it. So, the information is out there, but can everyone understand and comprehend what's there? And I've had a good think back in my past about the best teachers that I've ever had. And they've been people that can do as well as teach and that they have a genuine enthusiasm for the subject that they're teaching. I mean, for example, math teachers that talk about algebra, it's difficult to get inspired, I think, for a lot of people about mathematics, algebra, calculus and that sort of thing. But in engineering, where we apply that, the difference is sharply contrasted. I remember sitting through calculus lectures and then the following year sitting through engineering mathematics, which took the calculus and it was applied how engineers, how we would use it in an engineering context. The lecture at that point was inspiring, and I remember many of those lectures, even today, 20 years later. All of the stuff in the maths, in the maths lectures, the ones from algebra and calculus, all I can think about is the guy droning on for forever in a monotone. And it was just tedious in the very strictest definition of the word tedious, it was difficult. And then there were the lecturers that were part timers, they were the ones that had a full time job or a part time job and came in and lectured in one afternoon a week. They actually worked for telecommunications companies, they worked for the railway. They were actual engineers doing actual engineering, and they came in and they lectured part time. And their lectures and their problems that they would set for you were real problems that they faced every day, and if maybe not if every day, then at least that they do face regularly in their career. And those are the ones that inspired me the most. So, when you're teaching, I think making subjects that other people find boring and you make them more interesting, that's not something that you can fake. And those lecturers lived what they did and they brought that to the teaching environment, to the classroom environment. And when you're teaching, there's actually a little bit of a thrill, I think. When you watch someone that you're trying to impart some knowledge to, see that moment where they click. The wheels are turning in their head, you know, they say, and you see that moment, the light bulb moment, they get it and then they run with that idea. And that's kind of, that's exciting, you know, it's fun, it's great. I think that's one of the things that motivates people to teach, I think. Hearing about how other people have changed and learned and are working in better directions, That's what it's all about when you're trying to convey some kind of knowledge, to know that not only have they, one, understood you, but two, have run with it and are using it and have found it useful. But the saddest part for me, through all of this stuff that makes education, I think, important, teaching important, but the saddest part for me is the value that we as a society have been placing in education. Not just through our youth, but also in our working years when we're finished at school and we have a full-time job. We're far more interested on getting the job done than we are in education and pouring time, money and effort into upskilling and educating. We pay our teachers a fraction of the median salary in most Western countries and training on the job is something people have to do in their own time usually or if there's a lunch and learn you should probably bring your own lunch and if there's 10 jobs to do today one spending 30 minutes on the new employee to teach them a new skill to do the jobs do the jobs get attention or does the training get attention does the upskilling get an attention get attention and i suppose that's my issue if information is just information if data is just data and the internet is just a database Interpreting that is only one piece of the problem. And the teaching is more about demonstration. It's about inspiration. It's about conveying ideas and connecting people with the information that's out there. And we seem to place such little value and little importance on that. How many millions of dollars in business is wasted because of poorly trained people going off in one direction, that with a little bit of education would know that that is not the right way to go, that it's a bad engineering decision or it's a bad business decision. So when I hear people say things like, "Those that can't do teach," it really grinds my gears because it makes a mockery out of people that spend their time sharing their knowledge with others and it devalues what they're trying to achieve. So to anyone that's ever said that, thought that, considered saying that, I'd rather we re- we change that expression. Maybe it's better to be said like this. Good teachers can both do and teach. Bad teachers can't do, but they can try to teach. And just because you can do, doesn't mean you can teach. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can. like one of our backers, Chris Stone. He and many other patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Cheegee. Thanks for listening. (upbeat music) [Music] you
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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.