While we generally cover skills in this section, it has come to my attention that a lot of instructors visit venues like Firehouse.com to pick up different ideas, tips, tricks and maybe learn about a new topic they have in their crosshairs.
So, instead of discussing a particular skill, I thought why not write an article about instructing the Technical Rescuer? This should be a good topic to help some new or inspiring teachers out there, and perhaps a veteran will take one or two things away from this article to add to their game.
Here’s my honest story about how I came to teach the way I do.
Meet the Teacher
I suffered through most of high school mainly because of poor teaching methods and a serious lack of inspiration and motivation. Those two words (inspiration and motivation) play a big role in my overall plan of attack. Once I was out of high school (and pretty much during high school), all I wanted to do was make music. I was, and still am, a drummer. I mention this because I carry the entertainer part of me into all the classes I teach.
I decided to become a firefighter at age 18 and with that I came to find out that meant a lifetime of education, from the thick Firefighter 1 textbook to all the continuing education classes you take to maintain your certifications or learn about new topics. I came to learn the more educated you were, the safer you would be. I also wanted to be the knowledgeable guy who other firefighters looked to for the answers.
Now, taking all these classes you’re exposed to a lot of different instructors, some amaze you and some deter you. It’s the ones that amaze you that leave the mark. They are the ones who push guys forward, inspire, motivate and actually teach. Anybody can be an “Instructor.” You just need to get certified. But it takes someone special to be a teacher. There’s a big difference between “instructing” and “teaching” and believe me, this is something that students quickly pick up on.
I became an instructor on a whim. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to do it or if I would be any good at it, but to my surprise, it has been a huge success for me and this is why....
I’ve always learned things differently. My mind is wired for creativity, much like all people in the technical rescue world. So, when I teach I present skills and topics in sometimes very unorthodox manners (I actually prefer the term “creative”). I will never, ever tell any student something is difficult. That sets them up for failure from step one. Everything is always “easy.” Bam! Right off the bat they’re thinking, “Great, this is easy. I can do this!” Now they’re in the right frame of mind to learn.
Entertainment is big. If you lose your class, you’re done. You may as well just go teach the material to the wall in the hallway. Be energetic, take risks and entertain! Your class is your show. It can either be a boring opera or a high-powered concert. You make the choice. There’s a lot more that goes into teaching, but we need to move onto the topics you’ll be teaching. (If you want to hear me ramble some more on my crazy methods and ideas, my email is located at the bottom of the page. I’d love to help you in any way I can.)
Think Outside the Box
Technical Rescue is a diverse and specialized area of our world in emergency services. To succeed in this arena you need to be a thinker and have the ability to think outside the box. Those two skills are critical to a student’s success. Most students have the ability to think outside the box. You, as the instructor, may need to just show them that they do. Set them up for success. Here’s an example. If I we’re teaching a student to build a vertical shoring system to support the floor above us, I would, of course, give him the basic knowledge of how a shoring system works and the load ratings of any equipment in the area. Before class I would have brought out some 4-by-4s, 2-by-4s, 6-by-6s and maybe some 2-by-8s; all 8-foot lengths. I would also have some pneumatic struts and associated equipment as well. Once you begin and see what the student’s plan of attack is, throw him a curveball. If he starts building his system with 4x4s give him a few minutes and then throw your “pitch.”