Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tough teachers TEACH.

I listen to teachers go on and on about how they contribute to the well being of society and yada yada yada but in this day and age there are very few teachers in the business that are worth a kettle of over ripe fish.

I look back on my public school education and there are few teachers I considered worth their salt.

Yet after I got out of high school I started running into a lot of damned good teachers. A lot of these teachers barely had high school diplomas and one or two of them likely didn't even have that. One of my favorite ones was a guy that had a 6th grade education and taught spherical, trig and physics. He was a character and sounded like a hillbilly of sorts. 

People that sold him short were humbled pretty quickly. I saw this sergeant totally humiliate a pompous major by simply asking him a simple question.

I screwed around in community college after high school and the teachers there were so unremarkable I don't really even remember many of them but I can sure remember a teacher I met shortly after.

His name is Staff Sergeant Sylvester Mack and I figure he was just another high school grad that found a home in the army. His job when I met him was to teach a bunch of semi literate kids to become soldiers and he did one hell of a job.

He was ruthless, loud, profane, physical and accepted nothing but perfection. He took people of all backgrounds and did whatever it took to turn us into soldiers. He demanded perfection and got it simply because he would tolerate nothing less.

He wasn't too generous with the  compliments so when you heard him roar, "Outstanding, troop!" you felt pretty damned good about yourself.

While I did well in basic training, I well remember that he took some of the slower recruits and pushed them. I remember hearing him tell one guy "You don't think you have what it takes to be a soldier, but I do! We're going to turn you into one!"

He did, too. The kid turned out pretty good after he got the hang of things. When you think about the fact that there were quite a number of borderline Special Olympians in the platoon that he managed to teach it is nothing short of a miracle. 

I remember him shouting, "You can do that, Trainee! You don't think you can but I know you can! Now do it!"

To this day I use things I learned from him on a daily basis.

I was gabbing with another guy about my age about school and he told me about one of his science teachers that got his attention. Seems my friend was having a bit of trouble understanding dissapated energy and absolutes.

The teacher suspended a steel ball from the ceiling and dragged him up in front of the class. He swung the ball up and placed it against my friend's temple, held his head in place and let the ball go.

It swung to the end of its arc and returned toward its starting place and ended its swing about an inch away from my friends head and started the backswing away from him.

My friend laughed and said it was one lesson he's never forgotten and the way I look at it the teacher did one hell of a job.

I asked him if his parents ever found out about it and he told me he never bothered to tell them, but if they had found out they wouldn't have said anything.

Of course, the teachers of today would be appalled to watch some of these guys teaching that way in this day and age, but those that criticize really ought to keep quiet or get a towel to wipe the egg off of their faces because the system worked.

The teachers I learned from were not all military instruuctors. There were a lot of civvie teachers I've seen that are excellent. I took a firefighting course that had a great pair of teachers, a man and a woman. Both of them were very hands on. They started that class with a demonstration that made us pretty uncomfortable to get our attention.

That class was half classroom, half doing field work putting out fires. I remember that they allowed me to experiment. I held off opening my hose until well past overflash and the whole class was screaming at me to knock the fire down and get it over with. 

I kept asking for the OK to hold off a little and my teacher agreed. he said it would serve to show the class something.

I waited and finally just gave a quick, short squirt of couple of gallons of high velocity fog from the nozzle and we all marveled at the way the heat turned the water to steam and knocked the fire down quickly.

I learned a lot that day.

Another day I learned something was when I was learning to call in artillery fire in the service. I had taken a piece a bit too big to swallow by calling in 155s too close.

The sergeant took the radio from me and told them to hold off a minute, did some fast mental arithmitic and called them back and told them to fire the mission correction I had called in. He also told everyone to hunker down and in a few seconds the impact of the huge rounds shook our fillings out.

He told the class that calling the guns in that close was suitable for a combat emergency only and that everyone had to be dug in beforehand. He explained to the class that I had called the guns in too close for training purposes.

He went on to explain that the reason he allowed the mission to be fired is because the guns were pointed at us and therefore there was no danger from a short round.

We all learned a lot that day.

The best teachers are the ones that give you the basic  information and then make you produce. They let you experiment. They give you the know how to do something and make you do it. They get angry with you when you don't put 100% into something, cheer you on when you try and share your victories.

The VERY best teachers are the ones that make you THINK.

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