It may be true as some claim that great teachers are born, but anyone who is willing to learn can become a doggone good teacher, and can then look forward to many years spent doing something truly worthwhile. So I just loved the years I spent teaching others how to teach.

However, after I had been teaching for a long time I discovered that there’s always more to learn about anything. And what fun I had learning it!

I’d been transferred to the Air Training Command to teach two courses for NCOs and officers, one that taught how to run a training program, and another that taught people how to teach. Why? Because any training program can fall apart if the people in it don’t understand how to teach what they know to others.

I was looking forward to my new assignment because I knew I’d enjoy passing on teaching skills I’d been honing for 12 years, both by teaching and by taking education and psychology courses. Imagine how startled I was to receive a set of orders to attend a beginner’s teaching course.

Naturally I picked up a phone, got in touch with the major heading the school in Texas, and politely explained that I didn’t need a basic teaching course.

I might as well have been talking to a wall. Off to school I went.

On the other hand, I genuinely learned something in that course. After two weeks they said we were ready to try a first PL — practice lesson — on a subject of our choice. The idea, you see, was that we would mumble, fumble, and stumble, and so would learn from our errors.

A quiet young staff sergeant walked up front to do his first PL and began the introduction to a lesson on esprit de corps. “You’ve all been kidding about your wives,” he began, speaking in a quiet voice and looking at us very seriously, “and I suppose that you may have wondered why I haven’t said much about my wife.”

“Well,” he said sadly, “I’ve had three wives.”

The room grew suddenly quiet as he paused before he went on.

“My first wife,” he said, “died from eating poison mushrooms.’

By then you could have heard a pin drop in that room.

“My second wife,” he added, “also died of eating poison mushrooms.”

By then you could have heard a pin drop in South America.

“My third wife,” he said, looking around at each of us, “died from a blow from a ball peen hammer. Couldn’t get her to eat any mushrooms.”

You think you’ve seen people laugh? Think again!

Well, after I got up for my first “practice lesson” that major made me an offer to take the final exam, which I did and went home. But had I wasted my days in that course?

No!

That young NCO taught me something about introductions that day. You may at first think that his introduction only pokes fun at marriage, but if you had seen the faces in that roomful of high ranking — and married — NCOs as he began his introduction you would have seen how seriously we listened. Why? Because of a commonality of caring experience. And when he tied his introduction to the subject of his lesson we hung on every word he spoke!

“Esprit de corps: That which welds individuals into a unit which is devoted to a cause.”

It was a perfect example of what an introduction should be. It captured our attention and got us ready to learn.

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