Those That Can...

Written by Tony Harris, July 22, 2016


Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach!

That was something that someone repeated to me, I thought funny; in my youth.

But now as I sit here, with seven and fifty years behind me, I realize that I owe a great deal to my teachers. Mrs. Fenton, Mrs. Barbie, Mrs. King, Mrs. Debetencourt, Mr. McCarthy, Brother Joseph, Mary Conway, Kevin Conway… I could go on and on.

It really is a debt that I can never repay.

Kevin Conway taught me to be curious in physics class by challenging me to answer my own questions and then to question my own answers.

Mary Conway taught me to love reading and literature. I can still today recite “An Irish Airman foresees his death” by W. B. Yeats. I can quote a little Shakespeare, Austen and Dickens. Oh, did she get angry with me when she came back from maternity leave and found out I had not finished “Great Expectations”. I read it from front cover to back cover the following weekend.

Brother Joseph wasn’t able to teach me French. I shudder as I recall how I made him cry. An embodiment of the petulance, arrogance and ignorance of youth, was I. So he did eventually teach me humility.

Mr. McCarthy however, had no time for my antics. “The dog ate my homework” would not fly with him. But he would save me the embarrassment of having to reveal my spelling score to the class, a great teacher – true class.

Mrs. Debentencourt showed me how you can make words jump off a page. She explained how the word “nice” was meaningless, today she would say the same about “awesome”. She taught me to use less common words and maybe even to use a word that doesn’t quite fit; stretch it, pull it, make your reader think.

Mrs. King oh-she was a no nonsense teacher. Put the fear of God in anyone of us. A clip around the ear, a smack upside the head, but she was a superb teacher. She showed me how mathematics made sense, how to transfer numbers from one base to another.

Mrs. Barbie was my fourth grade teacher and gave me the confidence to speak in front of the class.

Mrs. Fenton taught me my 7 times table. I had trouble with that.

So really teachers do a lot more than those of us that ‘do’, they enable lots of people to ‘do’. They shine a light so we can see, give us the tools to forge a path and help us understand the direction we want to go.

If you are lucky, you will still have a teacher no matter how old you are. I have one. She pushes me, pulls me, guides me, she shines a light so bright such that I can see to find my direction in the wilderness and provides me with the tools to forge my path. If you don’t have one, you should get the same one as me: Bobbie Goheen.


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