As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, I got into teaching through an absolute fluke. I was young and gullible and got conned into signing a volunteer statement that erased certain of my rights under Air Force regulations. I then discovered the terrible drawbacks of the program I had volunteered for, and escaped from it by getting into a tech school on the same base where I was stationed.

I knew just two things about that tech school: One, its name was GIS Two, once I was enrolled in it no one but Headquarters USAF could stick me back in the lousy program from which I had escaped.

GIS, I found out after I was in it, meant General Instructor’s School. It was a school that taught people how to teach, the best of its kind in the Air Force. Its attrition rate was very high, but if you graduated from it you really knew how to teach!

And what did they do with me after I graduated? I became a drill instructor, taught basic training, and was outside more often than inside, which fitted me perfectly. However, unlike the image we have of DIs, which is someone with foghorn voice who spends his time drilling the troops, I was a wee bit different.

Oh sure, I drilled my men because drill begins to instill in a man a mindset necessary for success in the military: The Mission Comes First! Drill is the beginning of “esprit de corps,” which we’ll talk about in just a minute.

There are subtle differences in military life that make or break a man. For instance, you can retain your individuality, but you had better learn how to get along with others, and you had better learn it fast! The military is full of odd characters, even more so than civilian life, but if you are unable to become part of the essential oneness that is known as “esprit de corps,” the viewpoint that welds a group of individuals into an organization united in purpose, you might as well not enlist. You will not make it in uniform. You can be as much of a nut as you like, but if you’re not pulling in the same direction as the men around you, you will be detested and shunned, and if there is anything in this world that we all need from those around us it is a sense of belonging.

Anyway, there I was, out in the open most of the time and doing something I soon discovered I loved doing: Teaching others how to be part of something more important than themselves. I love this old nation of ours and what it stands for. As Thomas Jefferson put it on July 4, 1776, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Teaching new troops how to be happy and fulfilled keeping our nation safe was a wonderful job. After all, what could you do with your life which is more important than teaching other people things that benefit THEM? And so, after my first hitch I spent my entire military career, except for a couple of short periods, doing exactly that.

And after I became a civilian again?

I taught! What else?

We’ll talk about civilian teaching next week. If teaching is right for you it can be a wonderful career.

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(1) comment

Charlie Seraphin

What an honor to read your comments. Your word pictures are awesome and your passion for teaching is infectious. Thanks for writing a great column.

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