Teaching - It's Not Much

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During World War II, a bomber left England. It was flanked by smaller, more nimble fighters but it’s goal was straight-forward: bomb a munitions plant.

The five man crew was nervous as it flew through the early morning, still-darkened sky. Constantly looking for enemy entanglements, the bulky plane flew straight as an arrow. Finally, they saw the city. There were no lights or other illuminations, but from their height, they could see the buildings contrasted against the snow. Still there were no enemy planes in the sky.

The bombardier looked through the telescopic viewfinder jutting from the bottom of the plane and watched as they flew over houses and buildings. But soon he saw the plant and the process of dropping bombs began. It did not take long to drop the entire payload, but it appeared they had done exactly what they intended to. Their mission accomplished, the munitions factory seemingly destroyed, they turned in the tightest bank the big plane could muster and headed for home. Unfortunately it was not before some German fighters scrambled off the ground.

The crew of the slow bomber watched as the German fighters got closer and closer, eventually seeing their flanking guard-planes peel off in dogfight after dogfight. They were soon alone in the air, still lumbering toward home. When one German fighter shot through the fray in pursuit, their hearts sank.

They were no match for the quicker plane. The crew’s gunner, laying in a bubble at the bottom of the plane, saw tracer bullets long before the enemy plane was close enough to return fire. But quickly, almost before it was over, the crew watched as five bullets slammed into the wing, spraying cinders and billowing smoke. The plane started to lose altitude and the German fighter, convinced he had downed the plane, headed back to join another dogfight. The crew of the bomber simply waited for the explosion.

Yet nothing happened. The plane regained altitude, and flew on. Soon they saw the English Channel. No explosion. They saw land. No explosion. The saw the airfield. Still no explosion.

After landing, and perhaps kissing the ground, the men gathered around the wing. The bullet holes were clear. After a few minutes of work, the bullets were dislodged from the metal, smashed and flattened, but otherwise intact. They had only punched through the wing like a bird. No explosions and no other damage.

After a few minutes back in the machine shop, the crew gathered around the last mini-missile. The first four bullets were empty. No explosive powder or other potential damaging devices were inside. But the fifth bullet had something odd inside. It contained a note.

“We are 3 Polish POW’s. Germans require us to fill munitions. When they do not look, we do not fill. Sorry it is not much but is the best we can do.”

The rolled up note was signed by the 3 POW’s asking their families be alerted to their well-being.

It’s not much.

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Ask those crew members if it was much. Five bullets here and another five there may not have seemed like much, but it saved the life of the crew. It was much.

Education is filled with bullets. Like the notes of a musical composition, some are more powerful than others, but the stringing together of those processes, methods, strategies, and more can produce impressive and melodious results. From the new teaching based on cognitive science to advances in education psychology and even learning research showing us how so many of the old techniques are not just ineffective, but harmful, can now be strung together and potentially used to save lives.

The term is almost over. Time to use a few more of those bullets. Why? Because it is much.

Good luck and good learning.