“When I became a high school teacher I took my responsibility very seriously. I believed then, and I do now, that I was paid to teach, and that meant it was my responsibility to help every one of my students learn. I believe it is impossible to claim you have taught, when there are students who have not learned. With that commitment, from my first year as an English teacher until my last as UCLA basketball teacher/coach, I was determined to make the effort to become the best teacher I could possibly be, not for my sake, but for the sake of all those who were placed under my supervision.”
You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned
This is the name of a must read book for trainers by Swen Nater and Ronald Gallimore It is about the teaching principles and practices of the legendary coach John Wooden. The book is full of treasures and insights for trainers who want to improve their skills and abilities to ensure they are giving their best to the officers they are entrusted to train. In this issue of the Excellence in Training I am going to focus two of Coach Wooden’s philosophies.
Nater relates a story where he sought advice as a coach from his mentor Wooden. He called Wooden and told him “Coach, I have taught my team to rebound, but they just don’t learn. Wooden’s response was “Swen, you say you taught them to, but you have not taught until they have learned.” Nater said in that moment his definition of teaching completely changed. He realized the question he should be asking was “ Coach, why have I not been able to teach my players to rebound?”
It is too easy for us as trainers to think as Nater first did and blame the participants in our programs when they do not ‘get it’ during training. We too often blame generational issues, hiring practices, commitment from the officers, lack of time, equipment and facilities. In reality what we need to do is step back and take a long hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves “What do I need to do differently to help them learn?”
In the book Wooden relates the following story:
“You just don’t throw material out there for someone to get, as I’ve heard some college professors say. I had a discussion with an English professor at UCLA. We were both asked to go to Sacramento by Dr. Murphy, the Chancellor at UCLA at the time. When we began to discuss teaching, (the professor) indicated he was there to dispense material and students were to get it. And I said, ‘I thought you were there to teach them.’ He said, ‘No, no, college students should be getting it themselves. Maybe in the lower levels they’re taught (but not when you get to the university level).’ And I said. ‘Well, I think you’re always teaching.’ I can still remember having that discussion. We just differed a bit on our philosophy.”
Which of these two would you rather have as a trainer?
Which philosophy do you live by? Which is most prevalent amongst your agencies trainers?
Which of these two people appears to be more committed to their students?
From which are you likely to learn the most?
Which is the philosophy closest to that which you display?
It’s What You Learn After You know it All
In order for us to be able to accomplish the mission of helping our officers learn we must embrace another of Wooden’s philosophies and that is ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’ Wooden believed strongly in a commitment to continuous learning. In fact he liked to say “If I’m through learning, I’m through.” Nater states that one of the defining qualities of a professional is that its practitioners are life-long learners who never stop learning new skills and knowledge. As law enforcement professionals and professional law enforcement trainers we must be continually learning and developing on both the knowledge and skills fronts.
Wooden encompassed this philosophy when he stated “The purpose of self improvement is, of course, to help students improve. The coach must continually be exploring for ways to improve himself in order that he may improve others and welcome every person and every thing that can be helpful to him. A wise motto might be, ‘Others, too, have brains.”
Wooden believed that student interest is directly proportional to the depth and breadth of the teacher’s knowledge: and student interest is vital to effective teaching.
The purpose of this issue of Excellence in Training is to challenge all of us to take a step back, focus on What’s Important Now, and examine our philosophies on both instruction and personal development. It is incumbent on us as professional trainers to seek knowledge from as many sources as possible. This includes the great teachers and coaches across the spectrum of learning.
Keep learning, keep growing as a trainer and always remember What’s Important now.