Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Eh?

lightbulb21This expression has bothered me for many years. It felt like a massive dis-service to those who teach, belittling their ability to do what they are teaching.

Then I had a light-bulb moment.


There are some skills which are so natural to a person that there is no knowing how to teach them or even to begin explaining how to do them, and yet the same person can teach complex or technical topics with ease.

I have been told that I’m pretty good at explaining how to do things, and finding alternative ways of describing a process if it wasn’t understood the first (or even second, third, and so on) time around. That is what teaching is about.

As I was sketching the other day I asked myself the question, how would I teach that particular technique to someone? Not a clue. Nada. Nothing. No hints, no words, just a hand hovering over the page with a paintbrush loaded with watercolour, ready to tint the page, waiting for me to stop thinking and JUST PAINT!

That was the moment I realised that sometimes there are no words to describe how to do something as it is like breathing; it is so intrinsic, so natural, so instinctive that it cannot be analysed, whichever way you look at it.

Those who can, do. It just happens that way.

Those who can’t, teach. For those skilled people who have talent, but have learned a process, and practiced and perfected the technique, they are then able to teach it as they understand what went into it.

Just a thought.

R x

2 thoughts on “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Eh?

  1. This really had me thinking today. It made me realize why I liked some teachers at school more than others. The teachers I really liked and whose lessons I always did best in were the ones I respected the most. Why? Because they had ‘heart’ and ‘feeling’ for the subject they taught. A genuine enthusiasm to teach something they understood and felt passionate about rather than going through the motions with a Monday morning wish I was somewhere else look on their face.
    Although the expression ‘Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.’ has me confused one minute and slightly more understanding of it the next. I will no doubt mull this over throughout the next few days.Thank you Rachael for giving me this food for thought.

    1. It still doesn’t sit quite right to me as it can sound either patronising or insulting, as though teachers are less talented (on account of them not “doing”). Teaching something well takes skill and talent, and it has not been my intention to belittle anyone. My curiosity remains, and I’m still trying to find the words to express my “aha” moment!

      Having passion for a subject shines through in a subject when taught from the heart – absolutely right. We shall continue pondering eh Val?

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