One of the panelists mentioned something about how quality teachers and principals are like all good leaders in that they set high goals and constantly assess their progress, and then they quickly said “like generals.” The conversation moved on, but I got stuck on that. What if we were to recruit and train teachers like the Army does for soldiers? Of course, teaching does not equal war, but there are lessons in recruitment and training. The Army gives large signing bonuses, especially for educational attainment and specific organizational needs. They train members in a relatively short period of time by building teamwork and getting recruits to buy into the mission and accept a common purpose. Members must demonstrate mastery before advancing in pay or rank, and when they finish their commitment, they are either given more bonuses to stay on, or take their occupational prestige with them to the private sector.While not 100% accurate, it's not bad, either. It's probably as close as any civilian will ever get to accurate regarding the military.
Teachers marvel when I tell them the similitaries between teaching and the Garrison Army life I led in the late 80's. What does an army that's not at war do all day? It trains. It learns, it practices, it drills, until it can flawlessly do what it's supposed to do should it ever be called upon to do so.
When I was getting my teaching credential, several of my classmates had a very difficult time understanding a Madeline Hunter "objective statement". Those of us who were ex-military, and there were a few of us in class, just looked at each other with furrowed brows and said, "Isn't that just 'task, conditions, and standards'?" Why yes, it was. You see, in the army, every training event had a task to be accomplished, conditions under which it was to be accomplished, and standards to which it was to be accomplished. These were published in various manuals, and we followed them. That's how we were evaluated.
Anyway, those of us who had such experience had no difficulty writing such objective statements and creating lesson plans in accordance with them. We had already been trained to do so; the credentialing class was merely review for us.
I started teaching before I got my credential--I taught my first year on an emergency credential (I had a math degree and a pulse) and my next two years on an intern credential (going to credentialing classes at night and on weekends). I would not have survived my first year of teaching without my military background.
Teaching, like the army, is partly about getting people to do something they don't necessarily want to do. In the army, that something is putting themselves in physical peril, in education that something is schoolwork. Both fields require some form of leadership in order to get the unwilling to do the unpleasant.
I can hear you now: "But in the army, you just give them an order and they have to follow it." Riiiiiiiiight. And we don't have a Manual for Courts Martial, or a stockade/brig, or Fort Leavenworth, either, because everyone knows that anyone who wears a uniform is an unthinking robot that just follows orders blindly. Again, riiiiight.
The secret is leadership. Teaching the art of leadership is a big deal in military schools at all levels. The people under you have to know that you have their best interests at heart. They have to believe that you won't act capriciously, and won't ask them to do anything unnecessarily burdening (in education, that means busywork). They have to trust you, and think you're competent. They have to know you care.
If you can accomplish those things, you can get people to charge a hill--or learn algebra. You see, both jobs place you firmly in the "people business". You don't have to be popular, but there's a difference between popularity and respect. Some earn both popularity and respect, and I admire them.
There are more similarities. Rules must be firmly and fairly applied. You cannot show favoritism. You must be honest, even when you make a mistake. The mission is paramount.
It's for reasons like these that I support the Troops To Teachers program.