Normally, I don’t pay much attention to the posters in the subway, unless they feature something of interest to me like an advertisement for the Alvin Ailey Dance season, or an Idris Elba ad for anything. This week I did a double-take for the poster featured above. The title was admittedly intriguing, so I paused to figure out what it was about. I quickly noted the deliberate arrangement of the chalk and then the title made sense for two reasons. First, I realized that this had something to do with teachers, yes the chalk should have been a giveaway. Second, I recognized the title was an abbreviation of a quote by George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and critic. The full quote goes as follows: “Those who can do, those who can’t teach.”
The longer I stared at it, it got more interesting. With NYC subways running typically slow, I had time to notice that a fellow subway rider wrote on the advertisement in response:
“This show is an offense to anyone who is an educator and passionate about teaching. It works to undermine the education system and … Who sponsors this?“
The dialogue continued with another rider who scribbled, “Preach!” at the bottom.
After I finished taking the photos featured here I found myself wondering a bit about this show and scanning my mind to remember all the times teachers and teaching was portrayed negatively. There are a number examples that come to mind and some that you may be familiar with I am sure (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Faculty, Bad Teacher & Whiplash). I wondered if the person who felt compelled to write their opinion was an educator themselves or just one who holds the profession in high regard. In either case, I understood their disapproval of the message this image promotes.
I am a great fan of comedy and I am not suggesting that we cannot find humor or perhaps spoof the frustrating aspects of our work. If you are curious you can check out the second season trailer of Those Who Can’t and judge its hilarity for yourself.
But if I could borrow a phrase from Ms. Oprah Winfrey, here’s what I know for sure, Shaw got it wrong. Teachers, especially culturally responsive educators are those who CAN and DO, every day for their students. I know that to be an effective, caring, compassionate, woke, bold, innovative and inspiring educator your attitude is all about giving a “fuq” about the kids, who they are, where they come from, what they need, how they learn and what matters to them.
We all can use some comic relief even as we continually recommit ourselves to educating and empowering Black and Brown youth. I can proudly say that I share this profession with folks I refer to as “real deal Holyfield”, folks like Sam Adewumi, Nadia Lopez, Cathie Wright-Lewis, Lena Wilson, Regine Romain, Diane Nathaniel, Zena Wouadjou, Tricia Ocasio, and many, many other dedicated and caring educators. I know that we all can attest to the fact that more often than not there is nothing funny about the work we do. Teaching and ultimately empowering our children is no joke.
Deep thinkers only