As noted yesterday, most or all of my students seem to have a good attitude and seem to be open to constructive criticism.  Inevitably, though, in any group of young people, there are always at least a few that do not yet know what their “best effort” really is.  This is one of those lessons that we all have to learn over a lifetime as we gradually add more responsibility and a greater workload.  We always think that we can’t handle any more and that we’ve done absolutely all we can possibly do, but God has to repeatedly show us that we aren’t doing as much as we think we are, not trying our hardest, and not as near the breaking point as we think. Thankfully, He also builds His spirit up within us over time so that we have the power, courage, strength, and wisdom to adapt to these greater demands.  There is, however, another way to learn tremendous responsibility quickly.  In the military services, young men and women take a short-cut to learning these lessons.  But it is a very difficult lesson learned the hard way.  Their first hurdle is “boot camp” or basic training where, for eight weeks or more, they are at the mercy of a tough, hardened non-commissioned officer (NCO):  in the Army, it’s a drill sergeant; in the Navy, it’s a recruit division commander; in the Air Force, it’s a training instructor; and in the Marines, it’s a drill instructor. 

Regardless of the service, these tough NCOs will immediately bring “scunion,” upon any young recruit or trainee that does something stupid, grossly incorrect, or even slightly out-of-line or insubordinate, all in the name of turning out capable, disciplined troops ready for duty anywhere in the world.  I experienced this coming-of-age ritual when I was a young 18-year-old back in the summer of 1979.  And, there were quite a few times when I was the target of my drill sergeant’s wrath.  That man could unleash the “wrath of God” in a livid tirade that sometimes included profuse profanity, but even without the profanity, his words would spew forth with such violence that it felt like profanity.  But, as noted, this stressful training has a necessary purpose of  driving home the lessons of discipline, attention to detail, teamwork, toughness, and sacrifice.  Moreover, the training teaches the recruits how to distinguish when they have given their best, tried their hardest, and reached the limits of their capabilities.  They will learn as so many millions have learned throughout our country’s military training history the same common experience and the same commitment to duty, honor, and country.

Of course, my students will learn in a much more congenial environment.  Some will have to work harder than others, but based on my assessment of their first papers, they all have the capacity to succeed.  The only real determiner of their success from this point forward is how much effort they are willing to put in.  I have never had a student fail who was earnestly trying his or her best.  The ones who have failed my courses in the past have always gradually walked themselves into failure step-by-step by not responding to my markings on their papers, repeatedly making the same mistakes after they had been warned, failing to meet the clearly communicated standards and parameters of their assignments, missed classes repeatedly, come in classes late, etc.  Basically, they failed to care, and every effort or lack of effort on their part spoke volumes about their apathy or laziness.  Every student I have had that cared and earnestly tried for the most part has passed my classes. 

This includes one student that I had in my first semester of teaching, whose writing was so bad on his first two papers that I almost cried, thinking to myself that there was no way that I could teach this student enough to pass my course.  He had so many problems with his writing that I thought there must have been some mistake, some monumental screw-up in the admissions process that let slip through a young man who did not belong in any college, let alone West Point.  But that young man responded to my critiques and came to see me in my office many times for tutoring.  I developed special strategies to help him learn how to identify his bad writing habits that were resulting in errors.  Then, by the end of the semester, he passed with a “gentleman’s C.”  It almost seemed like a miracle, but he succeeded as a testament to both my skill as a teacher and his strength of character as a student, manifested in his willingness to work hard and to do absolutely whatever I told him to do.

I pray that God blesses you and your family with His loving, comforting presence in both your good times and bad. 



05/30/2016 12:28am

Dude their challenges and trainings are really very difficult. These are not an easy job for someone who is a common or an average skill person. That’s why before getting them they trained us hard and hard. So that we can bear them all.


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 


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