Veteran teachers

Troops to Teachers, which encourages retired military personnel to teach in low-income schools, is proving popular with school districts, says the Washington Post. Compared to the average teacher, ex-military teachers are more likely to be male and non-white and to go into math, science or special education, all high-demand fields. They’re also more likely to stick with the job. And they’ve got real-world experience.

Physics teacher John Paulson likes to introduce the concept of acceleration in his Woodbridge Senior High School classroom with a little real-world example: a video clip of a nuclear-powered submarine firing a ballistic missile during training exercises off the Florida coast.

“We can look at the acceleration of that missile and how, when it hits the surface of the water, it almost stops,” Paulson tells his students. “We can follow the missile up and up and then to a target 4,000 miles away.”

Just to make it a little more real for them, Paulson notes that he’s in the video, too, hard at work in the bowels of the USS Alabama as the submarine’s executive officer, second in command.

Paulson, 55, became a rookie teacher last year, after 22 years in the Navy. He found his second career through an increasingly popular program called Troops to Teachers, which gives military personnel stipends to obtain their teaching certificates and cash bonuses if they agree to work in schools in low-income areas.

The new job was a natural transition from a career spent training young men and women for war. “I wanted to keep working with youth. I wanted to teach them what they need to know to be successful,” Paulson said.

I’ve heard from a number of retired military personnel who went from training recruits to teaching at the K-12 or college level. After teaching in the military, where students literally shape up or ship out, they find it frustrating to deal with unmotivated and unruly students.

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Comments

  1. My husband (professor), my brother (wanna be teacher) and myself(novice teacher), veterans all, had that same observation. The military also uses the rule of 3 in teaching, “tell ’em what your gonna tell em, tell ’em, then tell ’em what you told them” (intro, subject review). The military also after a lesson tests a person on it, if they do not pass with a basic understanding, they are remediated and tested again. The student has one more chance, if the student does not understand the material, he/she fails that course.

  2. Richard Cook says:

    Joanne

    You may want to shut down comments until a workaround can be found for spammers. This is the first one but there will be many more.

  3. Walter Wallis says:

    Talk about subtlety.

  4. I’m a West Point graduate and former army officer. I’ve now been teaching math as long as I was in the military. Despite what some think, I think the 2 fields share many similarities.

    In the army, every training event had a TASK to be performed, CONDITIONS under which it was to be performed, and STANDARDS to which it was performed. Sound familiar? How about a Madeline Hunter objective statement?

    A training planning cycle went something like this: PLAN, PREPARE, EXECUTE, ASSESS. Sound anything like education?

    Soldiers are not automatons–they’re real people, with real egos, real emotions. They don’t just follow orders; if they did, there’d be little need for the study of leadership in the military. It’s been said that leadership is the ability to get people to do what they don’t necessarily want to do, even though they need to. Again, sound familiar?

    Dealing with sluggish, unmotivated students? Of course we never had slugs in the military! (haha) Problems and difficulties arise in every field, and I like to think that the army taught me how to deal with them and not give up. A skill useful to education?

    I enjoy what I do. In fact, I don’t think I’d have made it through my first year of teaching (on an emergency credential) without having my military experience to fall back on.

  5. I have a high opinion of the Army but I do not think have much to offer the public schools for the following reasons:

    From: http://www.strategypage.com

    “Interestingly, the idea that the military is a refuge for the poor and minorities persists. This has long been a myth. The poor are underrepresented in the military, because the kids more frequently don’t meet the educational requirements, or have had a run in with the law. The minorities that are in the army tend to be middle or working class. Army recruiters do work the high schools in poor urban neighborhoods, but only to sign up those who are graduating. These are kids who have overcome many obstacles and, while they may not have the same SATs as their suburban counterparts, they have demonstrated the kind of grit that makes a superior soldier. Most minority recruits, however, go in for one enlistment to learn new skills and qualify for the college tuition benefits after they leave the service. But myths die hard, and many still believe the army is full of poorly educated losers who couldn’t find a job. Wrong on all counts.”

    Our armed forces do not get to enlist the top high school graduates, but they avoid those who are too antisocial and uneducated to succeed. In some high schools that can mean almost everyone. A friend of mine who was a Drill Sergeant told me that some recruits form certain counties never completed basic training.

    An instructor in the Army has a lot more control over a student than any teacher in any public school.

    I also think there is a big difference between training someone to be a soldier and educating them to be a productive citizen.

    A lot of the success we had was simply young men suddenly realizing they did not want to be children any more. This probably would have happened even if they were not in the Army. The Army gets a lot of credit when boys turn into men, but it was probably inevitable and the Army does not deserve the credit.

    The Army has slugs, but none like the ones populating certain high schools.

  6. Regarding the now-deleted spam: What can I do to keep this junk out?

  7. I think everybody gets frustrated with unmotivated and unruly students regardless of your background. I think the hope is that former soldiers know something about dealing with that frustration and turning it into something productive. I haven’t been at all impressed with the Troops to Teachers recruits I’ve seen so far, but they’ve all been in their early 20’s and not much different than any other young pre-service teacher.

  8. Kimberly Swygert uses mt-blacklist on her blog to prevent Evil Comment Spam. It can be fetched from http://www.jayallen.org/projects/mt-blacklist/

    Looks fairly easy to implement. On the other hand, blacklist-based solutions have some weaknesses.

    James Seng has two alternate methods available: mt-bayesian and mt-captcha. mt-bayesian needs to be “trained” to recognize the difference between a spammer’s comment and an actual comment. mt-captcha is stronger — it requires the user to read an image, and then type in the passcode that he sees. (This is what samizdata is using.) The trouble with mt-captcha is that blind users or those with poor vision may not be able to participate in your comments section without help.

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    Sincerely yours,
    Jeffrey Boulier

  9. Walter Wallis says:

    Horse whips come to mind.

  10. “I also think there is a big difference between training someone to be a soldier and educating them to be a productive citizen.” –george

    Big difference? I don’t think so. In fact, I’ll vehemently disagree.

    Plan, prepare, execute (task, conditions, standards), assess. The army is all about training, which is teaching. The subject matter is actually irrelevent. Some of it involved memorization, some of it was cerebral, some of it practical application. And our training was continuous monitored and evaluated–much more so than my current teaching is.

    I’m curious, George–what do public schools do to create a “productive citizen” that you see so lacking in our soldiers?

  11. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘they avoid those who are too antisocial and uneducated to succeed. In some high schools that can mean almost everyone.’

    That statement is ridiculous. I would have to assume the person making it has no contact at all with kids in poor schools. There are many successful graduates from the poorest and toughest high schools.

  12. Jack,

    What is ridiculous about it?

    I will bet if DoD records tracked the performance of recruits by high school you will find institutions that never had a graduate successfully complete Initial Entry Training. I think the records have been kept quiet because it would embarass some school districts.

    I think we have some public schools that exist only to warehouse students to collect state funding.

    In many towns the school budget is the biggest piece of political pork in local government and it is mangaged in ways that have nothing to do with education.

  13. Darren,

    I do not think teaching someone to use grenade, rifle, machine gun, salute, march in formation and follow orders have much to do with citizenship. Can you name any training about the US Constition that our soldiers get? I do not recall any. I do recall some talk about posse comitatus, Laws of War and absentee voting. If military training was about democratic values it would not be military training. If military training promoted democratic values why have so many armed forces over thrown legally elected governments?

    Training is teaching, but it is not educating.
    I taught men how to use logarithms without understanding them. If they were educated they would have understood what they were and why they were important, not just computational aids to use in certain well defined situations. Good citizens are educated. Soldiers, disciplined instruments of destrution, are trained.

    Historically soldiers are the tools of dictators and opressors at least as often as instruments of a democratic government.

    Plan, prepare, execute and assess was also practiced by the Prussian Army, Imperial German Army and the Wehrmact. What does this have to do with democratic values and good citizenship?

  14. Mark Odell says:

    george wrote: I will bet if DoD records tracked the performance of recruits by high school you will find institutions that never had a graduate successfully complete Initial Entry Training.

    Depending on your viewpoint–and on whether these recruits were draftees or enlistees–that could be either good or bad.

    If military training was about democratic values it would not be military training. If military training promoted democratic values why have so many armed forces over thrown legally elected governments?….
    Historically soldiers are the tools of dictators and opressors at least as often as instruments of a democratic government.….
    What does this have to do with democratic values and good citizenship?

    I fear you’re mistaking “democracy” for “self-rule”.

  15. jeff wright says:

    George, exactly which army were you in? Seems as if it might have been the North Korean Army. Actually, if you were in the U.S. Army, I’d guess you’re providing a very selective description of basic training—for young people off the street, who’ve never been exposed to the military—and who accordingly need a sound dose of basic military education hammered into them.

    I’m a retired army officer and I’ve gotten a hell of a lot of education—not training—in democratic values and just how the military fits into the American Republic. One of the things that’s always emphasized to U.S. Army personnel is they are decidedly not members of the Prussian Army, Imperial German Army or the Wehrmact. We are not a banana republic and our soldiers know that. They also learn not to ever take any orders—from anyone—that are contrary to the Constitution, which, last time I looked, is a pretty democratic document.

    WRT the quality of military education, I’ve graduated from two year-long foreign language courses, which gave me skills superior to those of the typical college graduate with a major in those languages. I was also a credentialed federal agent, courtesy of the military educational system. Think that was just rote training?

    Productive citizens? Many of the most productive citizens in the history of this nation have been products of the military educational system. Haven’t heard of a one overthrowing the government.

    Re-read Darren’s posts. He’s got it exactly right. You, on the other hand, come across as having a real hard-on for the military. I wonder why.

  16. Mark Odell says:

    jeff wright wrote: They also learn not to ever take any orders–from anyone–that are contrary to the Constitution, which, last time I looked, is a pretty democratic document.

    Just out of curiosity, are you acquainted with this story?

  17. jeff wright says:

    Thanks for that post, Mark. I am familiar with the New story, but have lost track of it over the years. Just so you know where I’m coming from, I admire this young man’s adherence to principle and believe he got shafted. Nowhere in my oath of office is there anything about obeying orders from foreign officers; however, what does one do when one’s commander-in-chief orders one to do so?

    If you survey the principal foreign alliance commands in which the U.S. is involved, e.g., NATO and the UN Command in Korea, you will note that a U.S. officer is always the top military official. This goes a long way towards ensuring that U.S. military personnel are not placed in a situation where they might have to take direct orders from a foreigner. And, of course, that U.S. four-star officer would never take an order from a senior foreign official without first consulting with his U.S. superiors.

    A lot of foreigners do not like this, but the fact is we are the United States and this is what we do. It’s part of that old American exceptionalism the rest of the world abhors until, that is, they need our help. We also have a serious Constitution, one we honor, where most countries do not. Although I have resided abroad for some eight years and have worked closely with foreign counterparts, these have always been the rules. And I support them. Note also the U.S. refusal to sign up to the International Criminal Court—to the howls of many countries—principally to protect our military personnel from foreign “justice.”

    The military precedent was established by General John J. Pershing—one of the real military icons—who, upon arrival in France for WW I refused to disperse troops from the American Expeditionary Force into British and French units and serve under commanders of those countries. It pissed off the Brits and French—who wanted fresh cannon fodder—no end, but Pershing won the day. That’s why he’s an icon.

  18. Mark Odell says:

    however, what does one do when one’s commander-in-chief orders one to do so?

    You said it yourself: “not to ever take any orders–from anyone–that are contrary to the Constitution”. “The supreme Law of the Land” limits the President’s authority as CIC — if it’s not in the Constitution, then authority is not granted. End of story.

    “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States….”

    Where the power of the English king “extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies,” Hamilton explained, the authority of the U.S. President “amounts to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the land and naval forces, as first general and admiral” after the declaration of war has been issued by Congress. (Federalist Papers, #69)

    If you survey the principal foreign alliance commands in which the U.S. is involved, e.g., NATO and the UN Command in Korea, you will note that a U.S. officer is always the top military official.

    “Always”? This might be more reassuring were it not for a little something called “operational control”.

    that U.S. four-star officer would never take an order from a senior foreign official without first consulting with his U.S. superiors.

    That U.S. four-star officer should never even heed, much less take, an order from a senior foreign official, period.

    We also have a serious Constitution, one we honor, where most countries do not.

    One which the fedgov increasingly honors in the breach rather than the observance (and not in Hamlet’s sense), I fear.

    Note also the U.S. refusal to sign up to the International Criminal Court–to the howls of many countries–principally to protect our military personnel from foreign “justice.”

    I note that — but I have serious doubts about the word “principally”.

  19. Jack Tanner says:

    George –

    My kids attend public schools in Boston. The Boston school district is one of the lowest performing in the state. The system graduates roughly 7500 students a year all of whom have to pass a standardized test to graduate. The standardized MCAS is designed to prepare the kids with the minimum skills required to continue formal education or enter the armed services. If only have of these kids are successful you’re still talking about over 3000, almost 4000 kids. All of the big high schools have junior ROTC, and all of them have an agreement with both the UMass system and Northeastern U to admit kids who have a B average. Every year hundreds of kids take advantage of that program. In all of the schools there are a lot of kids with the social problems that you mention but a lot of those kids drop out. There are also a lot of kids who are capable and have achieved enough to pass these standardized tests. I good friend of mine teaches at probably the toughest high school in the city, Dorchester High and he used to be the basketball coach there as well. They have plenty of discipline issues but they have many kids who are successful graduates as well. These schools have a lot of problems but to say almost none of the kids can succeed is ridiculous.

  20. Anonymous says:

    To all.

    I liked the Army. I even reenlisted once. I did 7 years. I was no officer. All my time was troop time. I was also happy to leave. I met a lot of young men who the Army was unable or unwilling to deal with. Too often we waited till they committed a crime. I had to deal with the aftermath of suicide, murder and rape on several occasions, as well as the petty violence young men ordinarily get into. What percentage of recruits do you think complete their first enlistment? When I was in the percentage was 33% and this was during the volunteer years. The idea that the Army should take a high school dropout or even a poorly performing high school graduate is false. Talk to drill sergeants, squad leaders, section chiefs, talk to recruiters and ask what they are looking for. I still know some. I know I am right on this. Yes, you are right I know next to nothing about officers, but I did not think that was what this discussion was about.

    I think you do not understand the difference between training and education. I know the Army does. When they want them educated they send then to a place where they can be educated: college and graduate school. The Army does not educate its enlisted people, it trains them. It wants them to be literate and numerate on the first day of initial entry training. It does not try to educate them till much later in their careers. I noticed no one took up my reference to logarithms as an example of training versus education.

    Yes, the US Army is not that of North Korea, but it suppressed the Indians or North America and the natives of the Philippines and it followed Sherman through Georgia. If I was in back then I would have done the same. The idea that our military training is somehow unique and will prevent this is unsupportable. The legions of Rome were originally instruments of a republic and then made it into an empire. It was the Imperial German Army that forced the Kaiser’s abdication. The army of Imperial Japan was originally an instrument of its government and then it got reversed. I agree our officers understand that their duty is to the Constitution and that is all that stands between us and tyranny. It is not the enlisted men and women. What specifically can you cite from enlisted training that would tell a soldier not to participate in a coup attempt? When we discussed lawful orders it was in terms of the laws of war not the military relationship to our government.

    I took a foreign language courses in college. Why do you think college language courses really teach language skills? The instructors are all interested in literary and cultural criticism. DLA exists because the academic establishment does not support the military requirement for linguists. Based on the comments of my friends I also agree that DLA is excellent. I would not recommend someone not waste their time taking physics or engineering if he wanted to learn to shoot a howitzer either. They should go to Fort Sill.

    I think Junior ROTC is a waste of funds. I think we should put the money to address the basic problems in schools. There is plenty of time to learn to play soldier after they graduate. Learning leadership by practicing on your peers I think is a waste of time.

    I already cited my source that some urban schools have trouble producing graduates who can be inducted into the armed forces. I also know some drill sergeants who can site some rural districts in Louisiana who could not get any of their kids through initial entry training. I can remember in the 70s and 80s when principals ands superintendents were saying how good their graduates were and I would get graduates who could not understand what they were reading and could not divide and multiply. I know for a fact that Fairfax County, Virginia is bragging how good their high schools are, but I can find kids attending one of their high schools who can barely read or calculate. It is not how good their best are that surprise me, it is how bad their worst are.

    I know I have not covered everything. Have a nice evening