One of the most important things that should happen in the delivery of a training program is the preparation phase of the instruction.
Today we see a great emphasis on PowerPoint and flashy classroom techniques that many instructors feel is the base or the backbone of your presentation. The simple fact of the matter is that you are the backbone of your presentation and the audio visual aids are there to support and bolster your presentation.
We now have seen a development of instructors who believe that they are “subject matter experts” in all fields because they can read a lesson plan. Delivering a program from a lesson plan (pre-prepared and commercially developed or prepared by you) does not give the same class as someone who has field experience.
Part of instructor preparation is knowing your own personal limitations. While I personally consider myself a good instructor with some variety of experiences, I cannot teach every subject. How can any person in a small or large department be an expert on every subject. If you do not feel comfortable with a certain subject area, and it is not a skill you can practice readily then the answer is simple…find a competent instructor.
If this subject is not a critical skill and it is a skill that you can practice repeatedly (knot tying, first aid techniques, SCBA donning / doffing) then you should practice it until you are intimately familiar with the techniques. An acquaintance of mine who is a seasoned fire instructor and fire officer often said ” You can’t return from a place you have never been.” How true! How are you going to pass along a skill that you do not have.
If the training session is a practical session, stop, plan, and consider even the wildest options. Consider personnel getting hurt as a part of the drill, consider that a person could fall ill during the drill for some unrelated cause. Consider engine failure, nozzle failure, equipment failure and all the rest. Check double check and recheck and if time permits depending upon the size of the drill have a pre-drill rehearsal.
If the training session is a live fire exercise then follow the NFPA standards for live fire exercises and add some safety factors of your own. NFPA standards are a MINIMUM!
Also, part of your preparation includes knowing the audience. Know what there original capabilities are, know what the culture of your department is and what things are acceptable behavior.
I am writing about this because I am seeing a disturbing trend. I am seeing college level instructors with excellent teaching credentials, but little or no fire service experience, teaching new firefighters and new fire officers. One can only wonder what effect this may have on our future.
The best teacher in the world can’t teach brain surgery if they are not a surgeon!
You can never be too prepared to teach a class or give a demonstration.
Your students demand your best – Be Prepared.