Heavy Is The Crown As An Instructor
Those wishing to help others by teaching represent an important profession within our culture. The responsibilities as an instructor are sometimes thankless and always challenging, but very rewarding.
Set The Example To Follow
The number one responsibility you have an instructor is to ensure the safety of all those in your charge. This means taking ownership of everything that relates to safety. It might seem obvious when it comes to firearms training, but many times instructors fail to see the big picture. Bad things can happen and bad things do happen within our industry. Safety begins with you and how you handle yourself on the firing line. Many new students do not know right from wrong so they will seek to emulate your actions and behavior. Instructors who have a caviler attitude towards safety or say one thing and do another should be avoided. While there are normal responsibilities as an instructor one takes for high risk live fire training; safety briefing, emergency plans and medical kits. The real question is what are you actually doing to avoid an accident on the range.
First Contact & First Order
When you first make contact with a student you need to be assessing their ability to learn. The first step in learning is listening, then following instructions. I find it critical I set student expectations early on in classes when it comes to learning. After all, that is why they are attending class. It is a false expectation anyone can truly multitask. The best outcome is switch tasking; which in a sense means you do both poorly. Encourage student to pay attention, silence their phones and place them in a position to listen with minimal distractions. Depending on the instructions I find it an added benefit to check for comprehension. I do this by asking questions about what was just discussed. For this to work, you must keep your delivery of information clear and concise. Many times, students are already processing the first part of the message and how it affects them. They fail to listen to the end or even the middle part. When you are engaging your students, do so in manner that sets them up for success. Look them in the eye, speak clearly and with enough volume to be heard.
The Importance Of Following Instructions
Following instructions is a pet peeve of mine that goes all the way back to the Navy. I need students to follow instructions, not because I told them so, but because it creates the foundation for a safe environment. If a student is choosing when and what instructions to follow, how do you know when they will know to follow the important stuff. The answer is you don’t. This sets up the very first part of a safety related incident. Not clearly understanding the instructions or following them as prescribed. Sometimes you run into a student who chooses to do it “their way” or a way other than the briefed method. Maybe it is not a big deal, but maybe it is a really big deal. I choose to give the student the benefit of the doubt. They did not understand my instructions and are just trying to muddle through. After that, if you observe a habit of failing to follow instructions you need to be careful. That is definitely a high risk student.
Looking For The Problem In Advance
When you are monitoring the firing line you have to be on guard for unsafe behavior all the time. The best way to help is to look for anomalies. One of the reasons following instructions is so important is to create a uniform environment. When you see something out of place, that is an early warning sign something is not going according to the brief. Your responsibilities as an instructor will require you to supersede or interject based off the severity of the outcome. There are plenty of reasons to see an anomaly, a common reason is failing to hear your range commands. As a result, you see a timing issue. Someone is either really ahead or really behind. This can be less of an issue on a static range condition, but turn the evolution into a dynamic and its a different story. Should the problem persist, you have all the ingredients for a safety incident unless you manage it early. Managing safety incidents is another subject entirely.
The student is expecting you to be professional, but also feel safe in this new enviornment. Failing to manage some of the early warning signs is a failure on your part as an instructor.