Your role as an instructor is to mentor your students towards achieving their goals. It is not about belittling them or their current knowledge base, or their current practices aside from being unprofessional it shows you lack real instructor qualities.
It’s Not About You
Lately, I have had several conversations centered around instructor’s roles and responsibilities. In every industry there is some type of instructor code of conduct. Sadly, there is not an industry standard within our own. Instead it is up to a handful of instructors to set the example for others to follow. While I am not perfect one thing I have learned over the years is if my job is to help students accomplish their goals I cannot do that if I loss their trust. If students don’t trust their instructor to guide them through what will be a difficult or awkward situation then it is unlikely they will get the most out of their students.
Walk In Their Shoes
You can lose your student’s trust in a lot of different ways. Failing to see their point of view is a major fault for most instructors. Either you forgot what’s it’s like to be in their shoes or you don’t care. Forgetting what it was like is easy. For many of us, we take for granted all the frustrations and failures because they are mostly in our past. Connecting to your past is the best way to connect with your students. You may be tempted to dazzle them with your skill, but there will come a time when your edge is no longer as sharp and fails to impress. It is a hard pill to swallow, but your ego is the last thing the student is interested in or believes will help them accomplish their goals.
The Stick or the Carrot
You may also say things to students without actually saying things. Non-verbal communication is a huge part of our student/instructor dialogue. Positive reinforcement is a powerful teaching strategy, pretty much a powerful life strategy if we are being honest. Negative reinforcement can only get you so much. Especially when the student is a paying customer. Knowing when to use the stick or the carrot is the mark of a seasoned instructor. It really comes down to the little things, simple affirmative comments and gestures go a long way. The hard part is knowing how to motivate the student. The only way you can get to truly understanding the students learning method is when the student trusts you enough to share.
Set The Example
Part of non-verbal communication is also in the way you carry yourself both on and off the firing line. If you do things that somehow seem as though you are exempt from the subject at hand you loose credibility. The old “do as I say, not as I do.” If you lose credibility, you lose trust. If you are asking the student to wear the appropriate safety gear, but you are not it creates doubt in the student’s mind. Why do they have too, but you don’t? Something else you want to avoid is criticizing the gear or equipment of a new student. They often times don’t know what to buy or what to avoid. They probably lack the disposable income to just magically acquire the wonder tool you advertise. The only other thing worse than that is when you fail to set the example in your own gear and equipment. You tell students they absolutely have to have this or that in order to justify why you want to use this or that. You make it out like the student “needs” the gear you want. The other problem with this is when you run a clearly specialized tool in a general class. If it is a general class then run the class with the same gear you expect your students to run. On top of that, do the demonstrations with the same gear so the students see what you are asking is achievable with the same gear they are using.
Being an instructor is a lot more than a title. Earning the title means you put more stock in gaining the students trust so you can do the best job possible; which is making them better shooters.