Learning by teaching

My life story is an illustration of learning by teaching. In 1956, after I left college, I was contacted by a good friend who told me of the shortage of school teachers in Scotland. He was the school superintendent for Mid Calder in Scotland. I accepted the role of ‘temporary’ school teacher at West Calder High School.

I was assigned 2nd and 3rd year classes of both sexes in the secondary school, teaching mathematics and science. These classes consisted of students who had scored grades in the lower E and F levels in the 11+ qualification exams. They were not interested in being in school and were looking forward to leaving school at age 15 and starting work. The boys, whose fathers mostly worked in the coal mines and belonged to the powerful miners’ unions, were looking forward to a good paying job in the mines and the girls to more domestic work.

I thought the answer would be to depart from the script and find useful portions of maths and science that the students could apply to their future work activities. So, I used arithmetic to have them solve errors I had created in paychecks, where there were so many deductions for medical, holiday and unemployment allowances. This became very popular and they even wanted homework on it. Another well-received exercise involved the use of odds in gambling. Football pools were hugely popular in the life of the working population.

So, by providing instruction in the tools they might soon apply in their jobs and future livelihood, I was able to keep their attention and reduce the need for discipline. In essence, I had learned ‘on the job’ how to be functional.

Fast-forwarding to 1982, I was engaged to teach NDT at the College of Oceaneering in the Port of Los Angeles. I taught the theory and practical courses in ultrasonic testing (UT) and magnetic particle testing (MT) and the corresponding underwater applications. The underwater applications were new to me and required additional training. We had a training tank, where the diving students would conduct the inspections while I observed through a glass panel.

It focused my ability as an instructor to impart the science and applications in a functional manner, and I was required to develop and expand my knowledge of these subjects in order to provide the information that the subject matter required.

In my function as the owner of an NDT contractor, I was conducting training for my employees in UT, MT, penetrant testing (PT) and visual testing (VT). As an American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) Level III, I had to prepare examinations, conduct practical training and examinations and certificate these technicians. This provided a constant need for remaining current with developments in NDT technology and certification requirements.

The process of remaining ‘current’ is a never-ending one. Involvement with development and evolving technology is an absolute necessity for the NDT instructor. Continuous knowledge of advances in NDT technology must be a requirement for the NDT instructor and the NDT Level III, and recertification of all NDT Level IIIs by examination should be an absolute requirement. This is not required at present by the ASNT process.

I have never stopped learning through the process of training, teaching and certification.

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