PILOTING STUDENTS TO PURSUE
A STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE
Colonel William Moore has flown beyond the clouds and traversed the wild blue yonder. As a former Marine pilot, his job aboard the F4 jet was to run the weapons systems, radar, electric counter measures; he was a Radar Intercept Officer. He described the job as, “The guy who either got you in deep trouble or out of trouble, a human auto pilot.” His perception was that one could either be luggage or the alter ego that complimented the other pilot and maintained a balance necessary for success.
He is the Senior Marine Instructor at Mosley High School's JROTC program. For the energetic and persuasive Moore, teaching seemed an obvious calling. Most of his military career was spent as an instructor teaching pilots. “Although there are some big differences between teaching air combat tactics to other aviators and teaching high school Junior ROTC cadets, the challenge of persuading people to learn is a common thread that attracted me to teaching as a second career.”
Public law allows each branch of the service to contract with school systems; each participant meets certain criteria, which results in ROTC being available in the school. A student involved in the program for two or more years can enter the military with advanced rank and pay. In college they are given special consideration for the college ROTC program and have an edge if applying to service academies. The military offers opportunities that are better than ever but the standards are becoming more and more competitive to get into the military.
Leadership Education is the course title for the Marine Corps Junior ROTC. Moore's dog-eared, highlighted, underlined copy of In Search of Excellence-Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies by Peters and Waterman is his Bible on management and leadership principles. Moore believes leadership training is a necessity. It is essential if students are to develop two important lifelong traits, self-discipline and self-confidence. He believes effective leadership skills form the foundation and these two traits are the bedrock of all that will come for students.
The cadets are involved in both community and school projects. A recent project the cadets participated in was helping to repaint all the exterior and interior walls at Mosley. Participation in projects is used to develop the principles and techniques of leadership. For many cadets, according to Moore, “The Service projects provide their first real experience in setting goals, solving problems and leading their peers to the successful completion of a task.”
The JROTC program teaches people to be leaders. Leaders must be able to lead, but also must be able to manage. Leadership education begins with a student learning to lead oneself, and conversely to be one's own follower by adhering to goals set. By the time a student is in his/her third or fourth year they will be leading other cadets.
He has given a great deal of thought to the big picture and creative strategies. In conversation he stresses the importance of striving for excellence and the importance of personal integrity. “Integrity is one of the hardest things I have ever had to try to set firmly in their (students) minds.” His definition of integrity is doing the right thing when you know nobody is watching. It is self discipline and being a team member.
Integrity and honor are two principles that Moore insists are fundamentally vital to not only a student's success but also this nation's success. He tells his students that they alone have the freedom to choose- to pursue a standard of excellence, to settle for less, or to choose failure. When students don't perform at the level he expects, he acknowledges that he can't force them. Moore reminds them that they have to want to do it. Discipline is a concept that he knows is often misunderstood. To him, self-discipline will build self-confidence. It is not making students do something. It's the ability to do the right thing-it is what you want to do, are compelled to do, it is what you are, not what you do. “The successful people are those who are driven to do the right thing, to make a difference. I tell my students, no matter where you go, there you are. Your conscience is there-you do know right from wrong, it's within you. I value that- I want you to value that,” says Moore.
He attends seminars, conferences, and reads. He collects treatises on leadership, integration of business and education, and any subject germane to his philosophy of educating. Moore is well informed and concerned. He stated that the greatest challenge facing educators is the restructuring of the educational system. Too many classes and students are taught the same as a century ago.
“By the year 2000, less than four years from now, the average job will require 14 years of formal education. Unskilled labor will have shrunk to only 15 percent of the total job force in the US. When compared internationally, U.S. students now rank 12 out of 12 in algebra and biology, 13 out of 15 in chemistry and 11 out of 15 in physics. If the current trends continue, by the year 2000, American businesses will be spending a minimum of $25 billion a year on remedial training for new employees. Technology is changing the workplace. Downsizing corporations are laying off thousands of workers. International competition now drives a global economy. Meanwhile, we are wasting our limited school resources if we do not provide students a work-based curriculum to prepare them for the real workplace. The change to a block four schedule at Mosley is an excellent first step in restructuring the way we integrate school-based learning with work-based learning. We must continue to raise our expectations for student achievement, increase occupational studies and improve academics-beginning with our ninth graders.”
Preparing students with school-to-work abilities is an absolute necessity for him. He believes business must demand better educated workers and businesses must participate in that goal. Moore thinks if schools can articulate their needs to business and business respond with involvement, the benefits will be multi-leveled. He'd like to see mentors, partnerships, and people in the real world to help in the transition from school to work. He also thinks a business/educational partnership will generate excitement and attract more parents to become involved.
The nature of the economy and society has produced a diversity of family situations and home environments. Moore knows the economic realities have many parents exhausted. But he believes it is important for parents to know who their children's friends are, to ask questions, to find out what's going on at school.
For Moore, a good day is when people cooperate and achieve. If the accomplishment is something he sees as good, honorable and worthwhile then he has a sense of personal satisfaction. When it doesn't happen; he downshifts and asks what will work? “You don't fly away and say, well, I just missed the target.” When he has a bad day, his wife will remind him of the real significance of reaching one student. And, he has reached more than one student.
During the interview a former student dropped in to visit and pointed to Moore and said, “He's the best.” He has individual photos of cadets who still keep in touch. There is also a photo display of outstanding cadets. Being a part of JROTC reinforces a sense of identity through imbuing students with the self-confidence and self-discipline to succeed. This is a place that offers students an opportunity to discover their talents and discover shining moments.
For Moore, Leo Rosten's words have special meaning. “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to merely be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.”
Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful, is the Marine Corps motto. For Colonel Moore, as a Marine pilot, the objective was to accomplish the mission, to ensure his team safe passage home, and to remain always faithful to the pursuit of a higher standard of excellence. As an educator, Colonel Moore approaches his mission as the marine he is: to teach his students by example and deed to strive for excellence with 100% effort; and to believe that they can and must give their personal best. Semper Fidelis.