Teaching without knowledge?

There is a saying, “Those that can’t do it, teach it”. The shorter version that I have always heard is “Those that can’t, teach”. Either way it is said is just plain dumb in my view. How can you truly teach someone something without being able to do it yourself?

Now I’m going to pick on teachers in the public school system a little bit here. I have had four children that I have watched go through the public school, two of which are still attending. I have found multiple times where teachers are teaching subjects that they themselves don’t understand. I will not tell which years or the names of said teachers. I am not here to condemn anyone. I am simply going to address things that I have witnessed through the years. If you are reading this and are one of these teachers guilty of this practice, I hope you will adjust you teaching methods accordingly.

Teacher pointing with stick at blackboard, holding book and looking at students
Teacher’s book is for your reference. The book is not the teacher

First subject I would like to address is math. When a teacher is teaching math and they have to look in the back of the teacher’s manual to be able to give the students the correct answer, you as a teacher need to study before teaching students. I am completely flabbergasted that there are teachers teaching math when they themselves don’t understand how to get the answer. I understand there maybe times that you need to refresh your own memory but, you need to do this before getting in front of your class. You know what you are going to be teaching your students the day before. Spend a little time the night before refreshing your skills. If you do this, your students will gain a greater respect for you and you will be a genius in their eyes.

Next subject I will discuss here will be gardening, agriculture, farming or whatever the school decides to call it. If you are the teacher of this sort of class, you must know how to use the farming type tools before you teach your students. A simple tool like a shovel used incorrectly can cause injury to your students and possibly get you in a world of trouble to boot. Don’t condemn a student that is working on a farm and using a tool correctly in your class because that’s not the way you think. If you don’t know the proper way to use the tool, do some research. Research in this day and age is extremely simple. All that is needed is to go online and look it up. It’s not like it was before the internet, where finding the answer was somewhat more challenging.

Man stepping on shovel

There are other things that I have seen through the years that were taught by teachers, where the teacher didn’t know the answer. There is nothing wrong with not knowing. The smartest people in the world don’t know everything. You must learn yourself as well as teaching others. This is not just for school teachers. I’m picking on school teachers just because it is easier for me to show examples. If you are on the job site in a construction zone and teaching the new guy, these examples also hold true.  If you find yourself in this situation, you better know what you are doing or have the mental fortitude to tell your boss that maybe you could use some more training yourself. This will keep you and your fellow workers safe and efficient.

So above I have basically talked about all the bad and why this must change. Now let me give credit where credit is due. I have met and observed some very good teachers. These teachers are school teachers as well as trainers on job sites. A trainer on a job site that knows what they are doing, not only is able to teach the new employee how to do a job correctly but also is there later for questions if needed. I have a true respect for these people and they truly deserve it.

Teacher writing on blackboard

School teachers are in position to mold a young mind and help their students have a successful life. The teachers that take this to heart and really want their students to succeed, are put on a pedestal by their students. These teachers will always hold a special place in their students lives. These teachers have my utmost respect and it is well deserved.

Every adult can look back and find one or two special teachers that made an impact on their lives. I had a couple of these teachers that I think of quite frequently. They were and are special to me today. They really cared about their students and felt if their students went on to do well in life, they had done their job. I remember some teachers but not for good reasons. These were those that thought of teaching just as a job and were just looking forward to summer break.

If you think back to both of these kind of teachers, I would be curious if you have the same reflection about them. The one thing that really hits me is, I can remember the caring ones. I remember their names, the way they looked and even sometimes the tone of there voice. I can remember special times of things that happened within the school walls. I can remember how much they wanted me to truly understand what they were teaching me and how their eyes would light up when I finally understood. The other teachers that were there just as a job are hard to remember. If I try real hard, I may be able to remember their names but with great difficulty. I can’t remember what they looked like or how they sounded. I don’t remember any special times. It’s almost like I never really knew them at all.

Teacher helping student at student's desk

If you are a teacher or you are training someone at work, please take into consideration which kind of teacher you want to be remembered as. Are you there to help or just there for the job? Do you really want to teach or do you just like the summer vacation every year? I want you to really think about this because, it would be nice to see students remember all their teachers later in life and not just one or two.

Tell me what you think on this subject especially if you are a teacher. I look forward to reading your views. Take care and Remember, we are all in this together.

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Monsoon driving in a Haulage Truck

Teaching monsoon driving in a open pit copper mine

I have been a teacher, not in the traditional sense, but I have taught in many of my occupations. This is about one of those teaching experiences that maybe went not quite as expected.

First off, let me explain something about haulage trucks and rain. These are two entities that are polar opposites. When the rains come to the mines, one thing is true, all haul truck drivers are in for an adventure. While the rain keeps pouring from the sky, haul trucks drive just fine, but when the rain stops and the dirt on the road becomes more like clay, it is like driving on ice. There is no feeling like sliding down the road in a machine the size of your house with no true control. Just as one tops the hill and is ready to head down the other side, the driver tenses up, especially in the buttocks’ region. There were many times I thought I might actually have to call out mine rescue to remove the seat from my butt. After about six months or so, it becomes more of a game than a total fear of life ending drama.

Monsoon clouds

There are still times, no matter how many years you drive one of these big machines, that you will have that scare put back into you. Here in Arizona, where I drove in the mines, we have a monsoon season every year. Sometimes the monsoons aren’t too bad, other times they are downright fierce. This instance is during one of the bad ones.

I trained a lot of haul truck drivers during my time working in the copper mines. Almost all drivers taught, but I taught more than the average amount. I’m not sure if it was because of my ability to talk to almost anyone and find out what works best for them, or maybe I just had a death wish. Some trainees would get behind the wheel and scare the trainers. I only had this happen to me one time in twenty years teaching to drive these trucks. I may and probably will write about that time in the future. This post however will be about the teacher scaring the student.

Whenever we got some new drivers in the mine, one thing we always told them, was if they made it through the monsoon season, they would be alright as long as they wanted to do this job. Once every couple of years. It seemed like we would get a new batch of students during the monsoons. This was the times the students truly got thrown directly into the fire. Learning to drive a haulage truck in the worst possible circumstance is very difficult, not only for the students, but for the trainers as well.

One day at work I was told that I would be training John, (truth be known, I can’t remember his name. This was many years ago). The rains had been bad for a week or so and the mine roads were a complete mess. John was excited to get started. He told me that he had driven many types of equipment, but never in a mine setting or anything as large as a haul truck. I explained how the rains affected the trucks and how bad the roads were right now. It didn’t seem to phase him. Maybe this guy will do alright, I thought. I have, and still do believe, the only way to learn to drive one of these monsters is to get behind the wheel and do it. I never allowed a trainee to just ride around all shift watching me drive. The first day it’s ok to ride and watch for half a shift, but after that, it’s time for the student to drive. This day was the exception.

I believe there were thirteen students that showed up that day. All the driver’s that would have trainees with them, including myself, decided, the students would just ride today. This was going to be a suck your seat up the butt kind of day. If the students didn’t quit today just by riding, then maybe they would make it through training. When the experienced drivers were worried, then I could just imagine what the students were going through. These poor trainees were going to have the ride of their lives and didn’t even have to buy a ticket!

Open pit copper mine

The first half of the shift was a circus. Drive up the hill, slide down the hill, and hope you didn’t hit anything. The bosses all parked their pickups at the top of the mine to watch what was happening below. There was no way in the world they were going to be on the road with us, doing everything we could to keep from playing bumper cars! I was doing fairly well keeping my truck out of the ditch, which was quite the challenge. I told John once that it was his turn to drive, and his eyes got huge until I said that I was just kidding. With a sigh of relief, he said under his breath, “Oh, thank God!” I laughed and told him that even I wasn’t that big of a jerk.

Maybe six hours into our shift, one of the shovels went down, and they had to start another one up. This wasn’t that big of a deal except, the road to the shovel hadn’t been worked on all day and I knew it was going to be extremely slick. The rains were turning on and off all day, keeping the roads in terrible condition. This road hadn’t been worked on today by road crew because they had their hands busy with all the other roads. Dispatch told me to let them know the condition of the road, so they knew whether they needed to pull someone to work on it. I knew It was going to be bad, but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad.

I stopped at the top of the hill, looking down the other side, and told John, this is going to be the best ride in the park today. John let out a small groan, which is what I would’ve done if he weren’t here with me. I have to keep up good appearances for the student, I thought to myself. Slowly we started down the hill. I knew it was going to be slick. I knew we were going to slide. Furthermore, I knew that my butt would try to eat my seat. Furthermore, I also knew that I had a trainee in the seat next to me, and I had to play it cool, so I didn’t scare him into quitting on his first day. What I didn’t know was how awful it was going to be and how hard it would be to keep my cool for John’s sake.

We started down with a small slide toward the driver’s side. This soon turned into a very large slide. One thing kept popping in my mind, stay cool for John’s sake. So I started explaining what I was doing to keep us on the road and out of the ditch. I explained every turn of the steering wheel, how much brake pressure I was using and how to watch what the road was telling me with the dips and potholes we were navigating over and around. I explained these things all the way down the hill towards the shovel we were heading for. Furthermore, I even told John that was the shovel as we passed the shovel, still sliding for another three hundred yards on the flat and heading towards the berm! The truck came to rest about fifty feet from the berm. I locked the parking break and took a deep breath. John looked as pale as a ghost, and I wasn’t sure that I didn’t as well.

Mine shovel with bucket on the ground and man standing out front

Over the radio came a familiar voice of my ole buddy Pat, who was running the shovel. With a small laugh, Pat said, “Hey Billy, the shovel is over here, come on over and get loaded.” I answered back, “John and I are going to step out for a small break and clean our shorts out first!” I smiled at John to let him know everything was okay. Truth be told, even though I had to play it cool for John, my heart was running about ten times faster than I was letting on. I asked, “Are you okay, John?” He said, “I didn’t mind the sliding and all, but I guess what bothered me was how you explained what you were doing as we were coming down the hill.” I answered, “What do you mean? I just wanted you to get the idea of what I was doing to keep us out of the ditch.” He said, “Ya, but you were looking at me the whole time!” John, I said, “Actually, I was looking at the road, it just happened to be out of your window!” This did not sit well with John, as his pale white took on a light shade of green. Maybe that was not what he wanted to hear, but it was the truth.

We got through the rest of the shift without incident, and I assured John that today was not normal and tomorrow would be better. He shook my hand and thanked me for everything. The next day came and as my shift was beginning soon, I asked my boss where John was. The supervisor told me he was one of the five students that quit today. Well I hated to see John go, but it let me know that he probably wasn’t right for this job anyway.  Yes, it was extreme conditions, but that is part of the job.

We all have our limitations. As for John, I hope he found a great career outside the mines. I’m not sure if he just didn’t have the stomach for the job, or if maybe he was just smarter than the rest of us that continued with this line of work. Sometimes you just have to find the right place in life for you. Oh, just to set the record straight, I only lost one other student during training in the mines, and he was the one that scared me, whom I talked about earlier.

Take care, enjoy what you do and remember, we are all in this together.