Teachers Make a Difference

This week’s content has me fired up! I am such an advocate of education, so I am a sucker for any inspirational talk that reminds me of my purpose. I am also a lover of any literature that challenges the norm in education. After all, education is about growth, right?

Ken Robinson is a funny guy with a good purpose: highlighting the issues in education. He immediately had my attention when he properly defined irony: No Child Left Behind. As a former high school English teacher, that legislation and the push for standardized testing left me frustrated on a regular basis. Ken points out the honest truth: standardized testing is a push for conformity—not diversity—and that alone is ruining the purpose of education. Testing should not be the dominant force; it should be an option some take to prove knowledge—not one that is mandated across the U.S. (T., 2013).

The problem with the standardized testing, among many, is that it pushed for rote memorization, which ties into one of Langer’s seven myths about education (2016). This is not real learning! Moreover, in non-memorization based subjects, like English, it was nearly impossible to prepare students for the tests because they were full of content that was watered down, poor applications of useful skills. Essentially, the way to be a successful teacher is to teach to the test—not to the content. This defeats the entire purpose. However, if you were a history teacher (please don’t get mad, Dr. Nelson!), then your job was easy: teach the facts. You’ll be fine.

All of these thoughts got me thinking about my least favorite quote of all time: “Those who can do, and those who can’t teach.” It basically implies that teachers are less than; they might know the facts, but they cannot apply them well enough to be successful in the real world. Ken Robinson highlights what teachers do that goes far beyond the content: they mentor, they provoke, they engage (T., 2013). Education happens in the classrooms, the hallways, the lunchrooms, and more—not in committee meetings. Teachers deserve all of the respect in the world, so I live by a different version of that quote: “Those who can teach, and those who can’t do.”

If you’re looking for another video to get you fired up about education (and that quote), spend three minutes watching this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGKm201n-U4. It’s a little edgy, but it reiterates the truth: teachers make a difference.


Langer, E. J. (2016). The power of mindful learning. Hachette UK.

(2013, May 10). How to escape education’s death valley | Sir Ken Robinson. Retrieved September 6, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc&feature=youtu.be


6 Replies to “Teachers Make a Difference”

  1. Hi there, I grew up and went through school as a student with “No Child Left Behind” and, never having taught grade school in the United States, I really don’t have the perspective on how learning is gauged through methods other than testing. I learned well some of the issues with standardized testing while teaching in Tanzania, where they have national exams, but as someone who never felt hurt by NCLB I still have a hard time understanding all of its effects.

  2. I lived through both (being the student and being the teacher) during NCLB, and it has definitely influenced my thoughts about testing. I think most people could agree that standardized testing–while good in nature (we want kids to learn basic information)–has failed in application due to the restrictions it adds the classroom.

  3. Of course I’m not mad! But it’s dispelling the misconception that history is all about mastering “facts” is one of the most common tasks of the historian. So, here goes: basically, that’s not what we do! Historians teach people to better understand the past by critically engaging with the received truths and analyzing the sources. We are the interpreters not the fact oracle.
    However…you are spot on in identifying how NCLB harmed the teaching of history (along with everything else) by encouraging the “teaching to the test” mode, which meant not doing much in the way of analysis and instead just having students memorize “facts.”

    1. Dr. Nelson,

      I definitely agree that your summary of a historian’s role is what historians want to do–and should do–but it is the constraints of education that stomp on those methods, which is terribly sad.

  4. Hey Kathleen,

    I really appreciated your post this week. You always speak so passionately about your teaching background and so I am really grateful to have you cheering along with us this week! You make a good point about the problem with standardized testing being about teaching to the test. I LOVED the link you shared. Thanks for the heads-up. It was intense like you said. BUT, it was fiery & worth it to watch! Thank you for sharing!

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