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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD


Those Who Can

Everyone who teaches is familiar with the awful quote, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” (attributed to George Bernard Shaw). Whenever I read this, I get a bit angry because from my experience, teachers are the best “I can” people around. They not only can themselves, but they spend their lives telling others that they can. I am relatively confident each of you reading this can name an instance when a teacher convinced you that you could do something that you didn’t believe you could do.

For thirty years, I have been convincing college students that they will graduate. Did they all graduate? No, sadly only those who believed they could actually graduated. There were many good or not so good reasons, but every year the “I can” students fulfilled their dreams. (I say this knowing that there are some reading this who never graduated—it is not too late to fulfill that dream!)

For twenty years, I taught math to adults and young adults. Every year I was saddened to hear about some “you can’t” math teachers that students had experienced. I said, “YES YOU CAN” to those students. Sometimes I felt like Yoda. “Named must your fear be, before banish it you can.” The most important thing I did was convincing them that it was possible to understand math. My all-time best reward was when a student’s wife brought me flowers because I convinced her husband he could do math. Yes, he could!

Every teacher knows that he or she can only take students as far as they believe they can go. This also means that if the teacher doesn’t believe students can learn, they can’t. Simple. Believe they can and they can. (Yes, I am realistic enough to understand the mitigating circumstances, but saying them upfront predestines students to failure who could overcome.) There is no limit to what children or adults are capable of doing when someone believes in them to the point that they believe in themselves.

For thirty years, I have devoted my life to preparing teachers. It is crazy how many subjects I have taught them! Name it—I have probably taught it. Math, reading, science, art, literature, social studies, geography, psychology, and more! These are the subjects, but not the purpose. The purpose was to convince every student that they could teach. Part of me is in classrooms all across this nation and around the world. I hope that part of me is helping them tell their students, “Yes you can!”I had to think differently about food. I learned that if I cleaned out years of toxins from my body and said goodbye to carbs, sugars, and packaged foods, my body would be healthy. In addition, medications can save lives but mine were killing me. I say this understanding that some face serious conditions that require medications—I did not. I just needed health.

I couldn’t imagine blogging without talking about teaching, but I hope my thoughts about teaching will speak to the teaching part in all of us. We are all teachers in one way or another. Every one of us has those who are looking to us for guidance. We are teachers and learners and need the wisdom and encouragement of others on our journey. My desire is to be that encouragement—especially on those days when the only answer is laughter.

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