Instructors: They're Actually Human, Too!

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
L. Scott Niccum, 33°

Your OTHER left foot!  Do it again!
Whether it’s a Certified Lodge Instructor or Grand Lecturer, there’s something intimidating about learning from an accomplished Masonic instructor.  I don’t know about anybody else, but I used to imagine them as someone who would reduce me a quivering mass, sucking my thumb on the floor in the fetal position.  And that was pretty much my first experience attending a Grand Lodge School after I had been raised less than a month.

The Instructors reminded me of my old 8th Grade teacher, Mr. Dunlap, who I swear was older than Moses and had been teaching just as long.  He was a cranky old man who didn’t seem to like any student, and you learned from him out of fear.

In my District I have gotten spoiled because our Certified Lodge Instructor is R. Steve Bell—another companion on my Masonic journey. Steve is a Past Master of Hutton Lodge, Past District Deputy Grand Mast, Past Most Wise in the Scottish Rite, Commander-in-Chief of the Valley of Danville (IL), etc.  He’s the kind of guy you look at and say, “Wow is there anything this guy can’t do?”

What language are you speaking?
A due-guard what?
The answer is usually no. My “Workers Club” is a lot like many in our area where we don’t get a lot of regular attendance from new Masons—the ones who really need the work. I have attended, and am ashamed to admit that I have gotten used to Steve.  His calm demeanor, and helpful tips, and high praise makes you feel good, and want to learn more.

Steve works as a cement finisher and sometimes, during the summer months, is unable to make these Workers Clubs due to his work. He has, for a couple of years, been on me to take the test to become certified.  I keep telling him I still have a lot to learn.  His response every time is, “It’s one thing to know the work, but it’s something completely different to teach it—you have the gift to teach.” I would usually just say, “Ok, Big Ron.”  But I didn’t feel ready.

One Workers Club, Steve could not make and a Brother (I won’t reveal his name) wanted to take the test.  He wanted to try his hand at Instructing. This same night a new member of my Lodge was there.  He was an older guy who I had been trying to get to come, but he would always tell me, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but okay, Wormy, we’ll see.”

Like this, young Brother.  Let me explain it . . . 
The Instructor read word for word from the instructors book--prep step here, due guard shift here, no prep step there.  The new member had no idea what he was talking about, and was getting really frustrated.  Finally, he said he wasn’t feeling well and went to the sidelines to watch.  I pulled the Instructor aside and told him I really think the Brother didn’t understand what he was saying.  His response was, “That’s why I haven’t taken the test.”

A couple days later I had made arrangements to meet with Steve to work on my rod work.  I am going for Certification of Proficiency.  I needed someone to be Senior Deacon, so I could take cues. I called this Brother to help me out.  He lived only a couple of blocks from the location, and he reluctantly agreed. Waiting for Steve that day, he admitted he didn’t understand what some things were—like a prep step, and a due guard shift.  I showed him and helped him.  Little did either of us know, Steve was watching us.  He finally came in, and we worked awhile, and afterward, the other Brother left.

And I'll show you how to do this work . . .
Steve said to me, “Wormy, I told you it’s one thing to know the work, and it’s another to be able to show someone how. This guys left feeling good, he made lots of mistakes, but you helped him learn two things tonight.  Next time, help him with two more—like I did with you.”

I guess we all forget Instructors are not Gods—they are human.  And Brothers, lets cut them a little slack.  They will make mistakes, especially if they are starting out.  And let’s remember with new members, just like a new employee in my company—you teach them one thing at a time.

I am going to have to let Steve know that I am considering his request just because I want to be like him.  The Third Degree Charge tells us to let us imitate him, in all his varied perfections—in other words, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  I have learned, and can learn lots more from Steve.  I am so lucky to have him as a companion in my journey.

So next time you’re at a Worker’s Club—cut the Instructor some slack.  He’s a Brother, and if you’re thinking about going for Certified Lodge Instructor, come watch Big Ron, and see what I think portrays perfection in Masonic teaching.

Thanks Big Ron!


L. Scott Niccum, 33° is a member and Past Master Greenup Lodge No. 125 (IL) and a plural member of Hutton Lodge No. 698 (IL).  He is a member of the Valley of Danville, and is Past Thrice Potent Master of the Danville Lodge of Perfection.  He also serves as the Eastern Illinois Area Coordinator for the IL CHIP Program for the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. & A. M. and is the Traveling Degrees Chairman for Valley of Danville.  Scott and his wife Marie live in Charleston, Illinois.

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