An amusing lesson today with the fire fighters, one of them a scene commander, the others drill sergeant-like trainers. We’re using a military English textbook, and today i got to teach them about Hannibal of Carthage and leadership. i left most of the Hannibal stuff out because it’s not really relevant to their jobs, but i managed to do some good Patton impersonations and we had a productive 90-minute talk about leadership. i asked one student, a rotund 40-something pie-eater, if a leader needs imagination or if it’s enough to just methodically follow the handbook. He replied: “If he only can do what is in the handbook we can throw away the leader. The handbook is enough.”

This line warmed my cockles as i walked 3 miles through a bitter wind to my tram, once more reflecting on the inequities of my school, that we don’t get paid for travel within the limits of the city, even if this means – as in this case – 30 minutes by packed tram, then 30 minutes on foot, just to get there to teach for 90 minutes. i am often irritated by this – spending 3.5 hours on company time, and only being paid for 90 minutes of that – but then i remember office work and feel the proper gratitude.

Last week i had them doing role plays, trying to negotiate their way to a nuclear disaster past corrupt Russian soldiers. Each role play ended with both sides, fire fighters and soldiers, opening fire. i’m not sure why fire fighters would be packing heat but apparently they do. The rotund pie-eater, playing a soldier, tried to extort 150 Euros from the fire fighters, and then said, “I think if they do not give the money we take them to the woods and dig a hole for them.”

To paraphrase George Steiner, i continually wonder that i am paid to do this, the best job in the world.

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