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Teaching: seize the moment

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- How long have you been out of school? For some it's just a couple of months, while others have been out of school longer than some of us have been alive. I've been out of school for a while, but a day doesn't go by without me learning something. 

I attribute it to one of my teachers who once said, "We're all teachers of some kind. We're always learning. Never let a day go by without learning something or teaching somebody something." At the time, I didn't give the statement a second thought but as I look back to that day, I realize what the teacher said is true. Whether we realize it or not, every day we learn something and in fact everybody is a teacher! The question is, "Are you ready?" 

Each of us learned what I consider book knowledge (reading, writing, and arithmetic) in grade school. During the remaining school years, we built on that basic knowledge and honed our skills. Then, somewhere along the road, most of us gravitated toward our strongest subject. Our parents and family taught us our social skills, like how to share and how to get along with others. In turn, we helped teach our siblings and friends the same social skills. And for some of us, our family also taught us or at least helped us learn our book knowledge. 

So why shouldn't we learn from our Air Force family? The skills, experiences, and knowledge of our Air Force family are vast. Some have spent years honing their book knowledge; others are experts in their career fields; and others have the experiences of a lifetime. It's important to remember teachers are all around you; your supervisor, your peers, your wingman, and even your subordinates. You may have a mentor who teaches or advises you throughout your military career. But are you ready to learn? You may even be a mentor, a supervisor, entrusted with the development of Airmen. If so, are you ready to teach? 

You need to be ready everyday! Ready to learn something as easy as adding the digital signature to your emails or changing to the new format needed for a report; something as routine as performing a daily vehicle inspection or properly answering the office phone. Be ready to learn something as complex as building bombs to fight the Global War on Terrorism or as sophisticated as repairing an aircraft wire bundle. Often, learning is dictated by the need to learn, but not always. Sometimes there's a desire to learn. When your Airmen desire to learn, they're ready to learn, and it's easier to teach. 

Teaching is different. There isn't necessarily a need to teach. As a supervisor, you could just tell your Airmen what to do, but never really teach them anything. You must choose to take time to teach whether in a formal setting, such as a classroom, or a less formal area, like a breakroom. Your time is very valuable, and quite often limited, but you must take the time to teach. The opportunity can arise anywhere at anytime, and the most important opportunity will happen when you don't have time. So you must always be ready. 

Everybody has the ability to teach and learn; all you have to do is be ready. I know that sounds a little too simple but it is. To learn, all you have to be is ready, open-minded, and receptive to new ideas. To teach, you just have to be ready to take advantage of any situation that lends itself to teaching. It's that easy. Are you ready?