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Those who can, DO *AND* TEACH – on what teaching entails

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega at CIESAS workshopOne of the sayings that irks me the most is that old one: “those who can’t do, teach”. As a professor, a teacher, an educator and someone who has spent basically his entire life minus 10 years teaching, educating and mentoring students, I cannot stand the systematic devaluing of the teaching profession, and of educating as an activity. This lack of proper valuation is both systematic and widespread. The saying “those who can’t do, teach” assumes that there are other activities that are more complex, technical and sophisticated than teaching. This is a fallacy, and a grave one that has led to the defunding of teaching and education from kindergarten to post-graduate education. Because I am a professor, I know that my job entails research, teaching, service to my university and to the discipline(s) I work within, to my field and to academia.

Within the job, mentoring students is one often forgotten element of what we do. Research is underfunded. But frequently the most devalued of all the activities we engage in is teaching. This devaluation also can come from evaluation committees where publication and research are the most revered activities of what professoring entails. Nevertheless, within the educational system, teaching is perhaps the most key activity of them all. We transmit our knowledge and open students’ eyes to a new way of viewing the world.

Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega at CIGA-UNAM (Morelia)

I love teaching, I really do. It exhausts me, it drains me, it requires a lot of work from me, but I really, really love teaching. I’m definitely in love with my research, but I adore being able to shape students’ minds and transmit knowledge. This love prompted me to reflect on everything that teaching entails, and that is definitely undervalued. My Twitter thread shares some of these thoughts below.

I believe that one of the reasons why teaching is so undervalued is that we make ideas, concepts and subject matter look easy.


After I wrote this component of the Twitter thread, I remembered that there were MANY other parts of this job that people don’t/can’t see.

As readers reacted to my thread, many of them added other parts of the job that I might have missed (I was rage-tweeting, to be quite honest, and I wrote these ideas just off the top of my head). I really hope that after reading my thread and responses, quote tweets and conversation, we get a better understanding of just how hard it is to be an educator. Worth it? Definitely, yes. But nevertheless, very, very hard.

Even more so during COVID times.

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