School days, school days.. if you are anything like me you were so glad to see those days go, especially the report cards. So that brings me to this: it's 4 a.m. and the bells drop for a fire or EMS call -- at the end of call just how would your report card hold up? Is your report card good enough to be competitive by today's standards. Forget competitive, is it good enough to keep you alive on each call you run? Now you're thinking what does a report card have to do with the fire service?
From kindergarten through whatever academic level we choose to complete, we all are familiar with the same three things: teachers, students, and report cards. The report card is probably the most feared of the three; however it universal language makes it easy for everyone to understand. So if I showed up in your station today and asked your department for your report card, what would it say? Would you be just the average "C" student that shows up to class with little preparation time, hoping the test is multiple choice? Are you the "A" student we all should strive for, the teacher's pet in the front row with the perfectly typed notes that has the answers to all the questions?
The Grading Process
So maybe you have never thought of grading yourself or keeping a scorecard of your performances and accomplishments. Recently, after returning from a lecture on the various types of employee behaviors, my thoughts went back to my school days. Now you're thinking that I'm crazy right? But could there be a rhyme to this reason. On this particular day the lecturer used the analogy of each employee's performance being a type of grade. I thought to myself, well I'm out of school and here comes the report card again, what is that all about? But after some time I decided that it is a realistic way of looking at our career.
So how do you utilize a grade scale when it comes to our specific job? Look at it like this: "A" would be a skill that you can perform with no trouble, "B" would be a skill that you perform but struggle with some technique, "C" would be having trouble completing the task, and last but not least is the dreaded "F' that would be given if you were not able to accomplish the task at all.
Each time you return to service following a run sit down and grade your performance. For example your last call was a car fire with a small fire in the engine compartment. You arrived on scene with your personal protective equipment in proper order, pulled the crosslay the proper way, got a good knockdown on the fire but had a hard time releasing the latch on the hood on the car. Would you give yourself a "B?" You were able to perform the task, but had some technique problems with the cable release. This particular skill is one that has to be practiced and drilled on over time. So with some review you will feel more comfortable with it the next time that you are asked to perform it. By giving yourself that grade you begin to realize your own strengths and weaknesses, what needs work and what comes naturally to you. We are always students in life and we always need to work on improvements, we can't forget that just because we no longer show up each day with our school books and apple in hand.
So our school days are over, but the question still remains: what types of students do you want in your station? Which is the better of the two for our chosen career? That's where the fire service becomes a little less black and white and a whole lot of grey. Is it important that you have the knowledge needed to perform the necessary assignment? Yes! But, is it also equally important to be able to make quick decisions on your feet? Absolutely! In our world you need the knowledge of the that straight "A" student coupled with the fast thinking wit of a "C" student improvising on their exam. So let's look at our careers from beginning to end and evaluate how we are doing.