The Non Traditional Classroom Education

Over the years I have sat in many of classroom, participated in countless hands on training drills and evolutions, but I have found that the education that was gained from talking and listening to people who have been in the business for many years has...


Over the years I have sat in many of classroom, participated in countless hands on training drills and evolutions, but I have found that the education that was gained from talking and listening to people who have been in the business for many years has proven to be one of the best learning experiences ever. It has often been said that after the class or sitting at the bar after a conference program is when the real education begins. Some would argue, but I have found it to be true. This is when you can get one-on- one with the instructor or other mentors and hear information"uncensored". You get to hear the war stories often not told, the times when things didn't go as planned and even some really good advice.

As I begin to share this information with you, I want you to know what inspired this blog. On January 2, 2010 I was enjoying time with my family when the wonderful world of blackberry communications provided me with a truly saddening email. It was one from a good friend in Vermont informing me that Chief Ralph Jackman had passed away earlier that morning. Now as you scratch your head and wonder where I am going with this, I want to share the significance of the first paragraph with you. Chief Jackman was a unique fire chief. First of all he served the Citizens and firefighters of Vergennes, Vermont and Addison County for over 50 years as fire chief. He was unique in that he continued to keep himself progressing, constantly learn yet ever sharing his experiences and knowledge with anyone who wanted to learn. He was a progressive minded person who served everyone tirelessly. So what has this got to do with training?

Let's explore many of the items that truly relate to training. Chief Jackman was always searching for knowledge. I was witnessed this as he graced my classroom as an evaluator at the Addison County Fire School several years ago. He stayed an excessive time and seemed to not stop writing, which made me think initially that I had done a poor job and had fallen short of his expectations. Later that night, I was able to spend some quality one-on-one time with him over one of his famous three figure drinks. With an inquiring mind I had to ask how I did. His reply was,"well I took about 3 pages of notes from your class today." My heart sunk at this point thinking I really messed this one up and here it comes. He continued,"I knew several of my people had gone to another class and I wanted to be able to share what you were talking about with them, it will help them." At this point I was feeling better about the program and the door opened. We began sharing and learning together in a conversation that lasted throughout the evening. As I boarded the aircraft the next day to return home I was so inspired and excited I could have exploded. What I shared with Chief Jackman was really insignificant as compared to what he taught and shared with me.

Moral to this story is that training is available in a lot of ways. Classroom and hands on are super important. But even more important is learning from each other's experiences. 

  • We rarely take time to truly find the lessons in war stories.
  • We often time continue to do the same things over and over again expecting different results. We must learn from others experiences and we must share our experiences with others. 
  • We can't just write off the old guys, they are a wealth of knowledge waiting to share it with you.
  • This nontraditional classroom and dynamic of learning is not traditional by any means. However, it provides a tremendous amount of real world knowledge that just may hold the answers too many of your questions.  Chief Ralph Jackman, thank you for the education of a life time. Rest in Peace Brother!