by Midnight Freemason Contributor
R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley
One of the difficulties of being certified to teach Masonic ritual is the requirement that the instructor can only instruct if asked. Too often, no one does. In Masonry, we tend to complain that the ones most in need of instruction are the ones who don’t show up to Workers’ Clubs and other schools. It’s not surprising, really. It’s not a problem specific to Masonry. I’ve been a high school and university teacher for nearly thirty years, and I’m fairly approachable, but the number of students who need individual attention is much higher than those who come to my office hours. So when a student actually shows up to office hours, my colleagues and I are usually delighted, at least if they're serious about learning, and not just bent on begging for extra credit.
In Masonry, at least, you either know the Work or you don’t, so extra credit doesn’t come up. I can’t speak for other instructors, but I’m always impressed by Brethren who take a serious attitude toward learning the ritual and the floor work, and I’m eager to help anyone who asks. So the last time we had a District School, I asked the certified instructors to stand, and told the Brethren assembled there that we couldn’t instruct them if they didn’t ask, and that we would all be grateful if they would do so. A couple of nights later, I received a call from a Junior Deacon at a lodge nearby. He had been present at the District School, and was wondering if I could give him some personal instruction on his floor work, as he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing. We agreed on a day and time, and when I got there, the Master-elect, Junior and Senior Deacons, and the Junior Warden-elect were all waiting.
It was just the kind of Masonic teaching situation I like: plenty of time for individual attention, for going over small details on which big things turn, and with the added bonus of being able to have the Deacons work together, which is never easy when you're trying to figure it out for the first time. After 90 minutes, everyone had shown marked improvement, not so much because of my instruction, but because they had shown up ready and eager to learn. Being able to do it right mattered to them, and that attitude amplifies learning a hundredfold.
It wouldn’t have happened if the Junior Deacon hadn’t picked up a phone to ask me to teach him. So I make a plea to all my brethren who want to get better at ritual and floor work: ask for help. There are instructors out there who will drive a long way and spend a lot of time just to help one brother learn our wonderful Work. They took a long time to earn a commission as a Certified Lodge Instructor or a Grand Lecturer, and that commission is an implicit offer to teach anyone who asks. Take them up on it. They’re waiting.