29 March 2010

Drill Sergeants Don’t Have Anything on Teachers

Somebody asked me to autograph a copy of Nine Weeks for them today and I tried to think of a spiffy phrase to include with my signature. As I suspect might be the case with many writers, in my moment of need my mind drew a blank.

I wanted a phrase that encapsulated the main point of Nine Weeks; that the folk in charge at Basic Training often did a substandard job at teaching.

Make no mistake about it—Army drill sergeants do a fantastic job at many things: commanding respect, maintaining order, and yelling. But I have found that teachers on the civilian side are more effective at getting their pupils to really learn.

So what I would have written along with my autograph in that copy of Nine Weeks is, “Drill sergeants don’t have anything on teachers.”

A good teacher has a constantly full plate, cramped with unit & lesson development, assessment creation and grading, professional development and a host of administrative tasks. That’s all before students even come through the door.

A typical high school teacher has around a hundred students. The equivalent number of Soldiers would have four to six drill sergeants who never really have to do any of the above tasks. Drill sergeants don’t even have to develop the curricula.

Most teachers would think they have died and gone to schooling heaven if they could team teach, with a handful of colleagues, a fully-developed curriculum.

Civilian teachers must deal with a host of behavior issues that rarely manifest themselves in a Basic Training setting, and they can’t go near some of the remedies that NCOs take for granted. If I even hinted that I wanted a student to drop and give me twenty in my math class, I’d be laughed out of school by students, administrators, and parents.

So drill sergeants, NCOs, and Soldiers in general often acquire laudable skills. But, as I wrote in the title, in the department of meaningful learning, they don’t have anything on teachers.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    Can one request the catchy phrase to be autographed?