Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What To Expect From Your Instructor

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It was 1974 and I still have vivid memories of my first formal training class. It was early in my career as a security officer and I believed that all security officers should be certified in CPR and Basic First Aid. (Also, I will admit, I thought the little patches they gave you would look really cool on my uniform).

Since the training wasn't required by the agency I worked for, I had to pay for it myself. Even though the cost was negligible, when working for $1.25 an hour and raising a family, it was still a noticeable investment of my money and time.

I remember feeling overly anxious about the classes. I had no idea what to expect but I was hoping it would be exciting and informative. I was craving valuable knowledge that I hoped would help me in the pursuit of my career.

So, with my $8.00 in my pocket, I headed on out to the American Red Cross on Middlebrook Pike in Knoxville, TN. I was not disappointed and have never looked back.

I was really impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of the instructors. When the classes were over I was proud of the fact that I now had a broader knowledge base than any of the other officers I was acquainted with. And I was eager for more.

These instructors, there were three of them, had exceeded my expectations for the classes and we all (instructors and the students) had brought to and taken away valuable information and fond memories. Mission accomplished.

As the years have sped by, I have learned that instructors and students have certain responsibilities and expectations in every training class. The degree to which these are met by all parties determines the success (or failure) of the class.

By being aware of these criteria and doing your part, everyone involved will benefit from a class that is informative, pleasurable and exciting. It may also help you identify certain instructors that you are better off avoiding if possible.

As you read the following keep in mind that an instructor's responsibility is a students expectation, and vice versa.

(Students Expectations)
  • Answer as many questions as possible prior to and during class registration. This will help the student decide if the course they are registering for will potentially meet their needs.

  • Provide each student with an agenda prior to the class if possible, either by mail, e-mail, or fax. Again, it will help the students to know what to expect and prepare for the class.

  • Assure that you are qualified to teach the subject matter you are offering.

  • Be knowledgeable of the subject matter. Review all classroom materials to make sure the information presented will be current.

  • Be organized! Assure that all materials, training aids, etc. are available and in order prior to the students arrival. Do not waste their time by fumbling for materials and/or apologizing for not having them available. This will destroy your professional image almost as quickly as a lack of knowledge.

  • Be on time! You expect your students to be on time and you must extend them the same courtesy. Instructors should always arrive earlier than the students, within reason, and be prepared to greet them as they arrive.

  • Always familiarized the students with the facilities before or at the beginning of the class. Advise students of how often to expect breaks.

  • Follow a prepared agenda or course outline. It avoids classroom discussion from wandering off the intended material and assures that no pertinent information gets left out.

  • Be excited about your presentation. Your students will pick up on this and feed on it.

  • Encourage student participation. Everyone needs to have input, ask questions, etc. Don't confuse this with everyone telling "war stories". While an instructor will often relate personal experiences as examples, too many war stories from the students can be very time consuming and take away from the time allotted to properly cover the intended information.

  • Be courteous at all times. Do not give the students the impression that you think you are doing them a favor by being there. Thank them for their time, input and attentiveness.

  • Summarize. Always close by leaving the students with information about "where to go next" by suggesting other training courses, books, videos, etc. to help further their training needs.

  • Follow-up. Follow up with students soon after the class to get their feedback and thank them for their attendance.


(Instructor Expectations)

  • Show up. Space may be limited and your failure to appear can prevent someone else from attending. It also can cost the instructor money. His/her income is based in part by keeping the classes full. If you see that you can not be present for a class you have registered for, inform the instructor at your earliest possible opportunity.

  • Be on time! Early is good. The information you miss during the first few minutes of a class could be the foundation of which the remainder of the class is based. At the least, the time the instructor may have to use to catch you up is wasted for the rest of the class.

  • Be prepared. Be sure to bring any required items or materials you will need.

  • Be attentive. You are there to learn. Make wise use of your time. Encourage your instructor by asking pertinent questions.

  • Be courteous. Do not waste classroom time by telling jokes, war stories, etc. Any disruptive behaviour on your part equates as theft from the other students. Turn off all cell phones, pagers, radios, etc. before the class starts. Do not exit a class in progress to make or receive phone calls.

  • Follow-up. At then end of the class or at a later date in the near future, approach, call or write the instructor and thank him for the class. Sincere compliments are appreciated and help encourage the instructor to continue providing quality information. If an instructor is employed by another organization, a word of praise to his superiors is always welcome.

As I mentioned before, being aware of and adhering to these guidelines should help you get the most value from your training dollars.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why Are Women Different?

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I'll let you in on a little secret I have discovered.

Women need basically the same training that men do. I think the real difference is the approach and the trainer/student relationship. But the risk, weapons, tactics and most other aspects of the training are the same.

I first became specifically interested in training women when I was the Director of Security at a large hospital. With an employee population of about 80% women, it became apparent that there was a need for a training environment that would be comfortable and conducive to learning for women.

Before I go any futher, here are a few differences I have noticed.
  • Typically, women make better students and learn much faster than men. They only need more adjustments in the mental preparedness area. They need to be empowered and convinced that they can do it.

  • Women have no preconcieved notion about their natural born ability to defend themselves. Therefore, they are more open to accepting the instruction they are given. With a mind like a sponge, they absorb and retain more information. (Sorry guys). It's not necessary to break down any barriers before building from scratch.

  • It is in a woman's nature to be a fighter when necessary. That instinct has just been suppressed for thousands of years and needs to be uncovered and brought back to the surface. Once it is, a woman's ability to defend herself is limited only by the amount of time, practice, preparation, etc. she is willing to invest.

While most aspects of the attacks against women are the same as the attacks against men, some are different. Where there are differences, those differences need to be recognized and properly addressed by the instructor. I have found that most male instructors either don't try to relate to these special needs or, for whatever reason, aren't capable of doing so. Women (or men for that matter) should never leave a training session feeling that their needs were not met or their questions were not answered fully.

As a rape counselor I have spent untold hours listening to and learning from victims. As a training officer, I have always been mindful of the special needs of the females in my training classes.

My goal for this blog is to continue along those lines. Hopefully, the post and articles that I write will be helpful for someone out there. I am sure that the post, e-mails and other communications from you will be a learning experience for me. Together, we will progress to a point that you have set your personal goals and objectives, followed a course of action and and will be better prepared to survive a lethal attack.

Please comment, post, ask questions or whatever you feel comfortable with. And please keep me updated on your progress.

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Monday, May 5, 2008


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Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with, training with and working for some of the finest law enforcement and security agencies in the world.

I hope you enjoy my small patch collection. I only wish I had started collecting them much sooner. If you have attended any of my training classes or have worked with me in any capacity in the past and don't see your agency patch displayed, please mail me one if you can or at least send me a picture to add to the display.

Also, if you have a patch display of your own and would like to post a link to it, please do so. I'm sure many people would love to view it. I know I would.


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