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                   Educational

(If you didn't, you may want to start with "Education"

My "education" was odd and my educational background may be described as "really odd": I have taught at every level from elementary school through graduate level; from kids to senior citizens. I have taught in a great variety of environments from extremely harsh and dangerous to high-tech. Lacking an "advanced degree", I have been a college instructor for two community colleges, undergraduate instructor for two four-year colleges, and a graduate course instructor for one college. 

Because of this unusual set of circumstances and experiences I include both an explanation and what I have learned as a result. First, I should explain how these diverse experiences became possible. 

It didn't hurt that I earned two "BAs" with high honors and have completed the coursework for a Masters, but that wouldn't have led to my unusual teaching opportunities. Those opportunities arose because of "supply & demand" teacher shortages in technical fields and my "experience credentials". I also benefited from an education and educational experience within the largest educational institution in the world - the United States Air Force. While not considered "higher education" within some circles, the course work I completed during four years of military service earned me over 65 credits (quarter terms) of undergraduate study in such diverse areas as "cultural anthropology" and "applied botany". And, I consider the teaching instruction I received at "Air University" ("Academic Instructor Course", Maxwell AFB, Alabama) to be the single best and most useful course I've ever taken. That says a lot when you consider the high quality of education I have "suffered" - and in at least a few cases, suffering was an intentional element of the training. (The USAF SERE-Instructor course works hard to compete with the Navy SEAL course as the military's most rigorous).

But in reality, it all began in elementary school, so I shall digress... OK, I was a "teacher's pet". And, I was the principal's pet. I discovered early that school was boring if I had to spend all my time in the classroom, so I volunteered for every opportunity to get out. When Ms. Little heard that the school's bell system was broken, she volunteered me to fix it. When I did, the Principal offered me office duty for half the day. When they needed a "safety patrol person" to direct morning traffic (not the normal crossing guard stuff), I volunteered and became one of two for the entire school. Then I became playground monitor for the lower grades and was left in charge of the whole group during recess (crazy, but true). I spent less than 10% of my school time in class during 6th grade.

In junior high, I signed up for every club I could get in the schedule. My favorite was FTA - Future Teachers of America. They had a tutoring program with a nice price for the person who earned the most tutoring points. I tutored in three subjects (teacher approved) and spent more time tutoring than sitting in class. I took the job seriously even when my girlfriend (Brenda) became a "student". I loved the challenge of teaching and benefited from "no one knows a subject so well as one who has to teach it to another." 

This carried over into high school - in my junior year, Kirk King took over as electronics teacher while knowing almost nothing about electronics. He was happy to delegate the teaching to me and let me sign up for both my scheduled elective and an "independent study" class so I could teach two classes per day. I wrote lesson plans, quizzes, tests, and did the grading. Nobody seemed to mind and my fellow students liked my hands-on learning approach. This lesson carried over through my years as a "certified teacher". But first, my educational experience would gain its greatest gains.

Who would have thought that I would go into the Air Force and learn to teach. Sure, the survival instructors course offered a methods section and we did formal lesson plans, had curriculum guides, and learned great methodology, but my knowledge of the pedagogical art took a quantum leap in two unexpected supplemental courses: the academic instructor course and the resistance training course. The first one might have seemed an obvious one, but my opportunity to attend was quite unexpected. To get this rare "TDY" assignment, one had to get referrals from several in the chain of command and I wasn't exactly Mr. Popularity with the "lifers". I guess nobody else wanted to go. I sure did. 

The instructors at the Air Academy School (all PhDs) were individually and collectively the most professional educators I have ever encountered. They balanced both the art and the science of teaching and synthesized and integrated all the related fields (psychology, media, entertainment, measurement, etc.) into instruction that was both highly effective and intended to be modeled. In other words, they practiced what they preached. I was learning about learning from teachers who knew how to teach; it was almost magical. I wish that every teacher had a similar experience.

Resistance training combines role play, stress, psychology, and student-teacher trust in ways unimaginable anywhere else. I learned a lot about myself when I took the course as a student and I learned very interesting things about teaching when I became an RT instructor. The biggest lesson had to do with "cognitive dissonance" - the aspect of human mind which resists perceptions or ideas in conflict with expectation, experience, or reason. Used as a "tool", it has amazing power to influence and control: scary power. I spent over a year applying this tool to the best of my ability in a controlled "laboratory" where students submitted to enormous stress and loss of control as student POWs. The specific techniques were classified, tightly controlled, and very well monitored, but the idea is simple and ancient: just ask magicians, wizards, and exorcists. Create enough cognitive dissonance in the right circumstances and with the right focus and people can be convinced of almost anything. Scary power, but not very useful in everyday life.

Oddly, the one place where it has immediate and direct daily application is in teaching - where students are very open to suggestion, full of trust, and unwitting. Of course, this means it is subject to abuse and misuse (thus the careful monitoring in the military). In the school environment, good teachers use the process naturally and achieve good results. Hopefully bad teachers simply remain bad teachers and don't discover their ability to misuse their position (and cognitive dissonance). 

Quickly then, here is an outline of my educational experience. I have taught college level (credit) courses in each of these areas:

  • Outdoor Education (Backpacking, Mountaineering, Survival)
  • Electronics
  • Computer Science (four colleges)
  • Education (Undergraduate and Graduate Level)
  • Welding & Metallurgy (AMS)
  • Business Management (Applied Computer Applications)
  • Crafts (Lapidary, Leather, Jewelry, 
  • Woodworking & Finishing

I have been certified or licensed in these areas:

  • Secondary Education (Oregon & Washington)
  • Welding Instruction & Testing (Certification Instruction)
  • General Contracting (Construction)
  • Field Medicine (Military Medic) / EMT III (EWU)
  • Global Survival ("7" level - Master Instructor)
  • SERE specialties, including advanced (not "enhanced") interrogation techniques.

Between 1977 and 1986, I spent a great deal of time developing educational materials - curricular, course, and computer software. I authored or co-authored hundreds of published programs which were sold on four continents and in every state. I authored the curriculum for three "micro-computer" certificate programs (associate degrees: programming, application, and management) which I administered through their adoption by the State of Oregon (as the first such in the country). Having correctly predicted the ensuing dominance of personal computers and the diminishment of traditional "computer science", all three programs remain essentially unchanged after 20 years. 

I have summarized some of my educational observations, conclusions, and suggestions in various writings - listed or linked HERE.

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rich1vanwinkle@yahoo.com


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