Those Who Do, Teach
As a teacher, I have been told “those who can’t do, teach.”
Let that sink in. Those who can’t do, teach. Not only do I whole-heartedly disagree with the statement, I want to provide you with a few reasons why being able to DO the skills I teach in my classroom allows me to be a better TEACHER in my subject area.
A little background before we begin. I am a high school engineering teacher. I am a woman, which splits me into two groups: I am both in the majority for being a female in education, but teach subjects that are usually male-dominated.
While having a woman be the head of our engineering department may be a draw for some parents who want their daughters to get into our program, I hope they understand this is just one challenging step in becoming a female engineer. Admittedly, I changed my major partway through my sophomore year in college to be a Biochemistry major instead of the Chemical Engineering major I declared when I started my freshman year. Does this mean I couldn’t do, and therefore I became a teacher?
I know what it feels like to be objectified in the workplace, to be looked over when your male co-workers are assumed as the leadership, and I know what it feels like to be questioned based on my gender rather than my skill in science. I have worked in a number of labs, most dominated by men. While I may not have direct experience working in an engineering firm, I can co-exist on a team required to think critically to solve problems and develop products to solve problems that matter. I want my female students to feel empowered by the work they can do, and stand strong when they are questioned by their male counterparts.
I want more for my students. As an integral part of my pedagogy, I want students to develop critical thinking skills, to learn through failure, and how to build some bomb robots, to program them, and eventually use these skills in other areas of interest. Knowing how challenging it can be to hone these skills when you are in the midst of 17 year old boys with raging hormones, who are too loud to speak over, and who disregard any sense of parity, I hope to provide an environment where some of these variables are a little more contained. My goal is to bring everyone up, but sometimes that means making extra space for the girls in a divided field.
I have become adept at teaching these skills to my students because I know how to do them, not because I am incapable of doing them. I provide a space where girls can express interest in becoming engineers, often out-perform their male counterparts, and provide support when they waver on going into the field in the future. I teach because I can do.