Tips to Successfully Pass Your Fire Technology Classes

This article helps students learn from the mistakes of others to properly prepare for a career as a firefighter.


This is a topic I've wanted to write about for a while, and now is about as good of a time to do so as any...

Many of you are either presently taking or planning to take fire technology classes at your local community college to prepare yourself to become a firefighter. I want to share some of my experience--10 years of teaching at the college level, three of those years as a fire technology coordinator--so that you can learn from the mistakes of others and not follow in the same footsteps as those that have not succeeded.

One of the classes I am presently teaching is the "Introduction to Fire Protection" class. I get to see students in their first semester, many of them fresh out of high school and with no life experience to speak of (not that there is anything wrong with that). This can be rewarding, depending on the student. It is great seeing students succeed from their first class into a firefighter job a couple of years later--that is what makes my day.

We start with about 60 students on day one, and in the past, I have graduated only about 30 or so, with about 20 of them getting an "F" and the other 10 dropping sometime before the final drop deadline (no grade of record). These numbers are typical in our night class, but with a slightly higher success rate). I have been frustrated with the high failure rate, but based on this class being the first one in the fire series, it does make sense. Not everyone knows what they are getting into or if they actually want to be a firefighter. Obviously many students take one class (like the introduction class) and never take any other ones or even attempt to become a firefighter. That's OK, not everybody is cut out for every job.

One of my biggest frustrations is students that cannot follow simple directions or do not put their heart and soul into what they are trying to accomplish. We are not there to baby sit you, we are here to provide you with a rock-solid foundation to start off your fire service career and set you up for success. Do some of the instructors spoon feed students? I would by fooling myself if I didn't say that it does occur not just at our college, but at most colleges nationwide. As instructors, we are not doing you the student any service spoon feeding you.

Since a class starts with about 60 students, and there are probably only about 20 or so that really deserve to be there (deserve meaning they will do the best they can and have a good shot at getting hired if they don't give up or do something stupid). I wish I could go right to that 20 that should be there and focus all of my efforts on seeing them succeed. Well, one of the things I require of students is that they pass the midterm with a grade of at least 80 percent (which is a "C" - 79 percent or less is failing). If they don't pass the midterm with at least 80 percent, they are advised that they can no longer stay in the class.

Well, I am now down to about 25 students in my class and had to drop about 15 after they failed the midterm (another 20 or so dropped in the first few weeks for whatever reason). These students are the ones that will probably be successful, based on their progress to date. Also, I doubt that I will be giving many, if any, grades of "F" at the end of the semester. Getting a grade of F is worse than getting a "W" (withdraw)".

Now some think that is unfair that they could not stay in the class. Well, there are some very common themes with virtually all of the students that failed the midterm and got dropped from the class that you can learn from. Most (if not all) of them would have been successful if they had:

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