Friday, October 14, 2016

"Experts"

I was at the range one day and had just finished my work out. I was putting things in my range bag when a few cars drove up and parked next to my truck. Out jumped about 6 people with some gun cases and ammo boxes. They came up to me and asked if I was their instructor. I told them I was not “I don’t have a class today” were my words. They said “So you are an instructor?” I said “Yes.” They started to pepper me with questions. I finally said, “Your instructor should have told you that…” In the course of talking I found that this was indeed their 3rd class with this particular instructor.
This reminded me of a story I recently read about an experience another instructor had.

“Recently I was asked to ‘baby sit’ (my words) a fellow who was teaching a handgun class at a range where I serve as a Range Safety Officer. I was to give an impromptu safety talk and then observe the class for a while to determine if they could be left on their own or needed watching. They needed watching. Boy Oh Boy, Did they need watching.
Before they started I asked questions to get a feel for their experience and training. I was told that ‘most’ of the four students had trained under this instructor before. The instructor did have a large emblem on the back of his jacket showing his certification as an instructor, issued from a large well known organization, no less. This instructor informed me that these students were all at the ‘intermediate’ level, he then added that this was because they had all attended a concealed weapon class. The class, I believe, he had taught.
Among them one had a medium frame revolver, another a small Glock, another a small oddball copy of the Colt ‘1911’, I don’t recall what semi-auto the other fellow had. Two of the semi-auto shooters didn’t remember how to load their guns, even how to insert the magazine. I observed that the ‘1911’ shooter fired right handed but always used his left hand to put the safety on or off. Later I showed him how to operate the safety using the thumb of his right hand and the alternate method if he was shooting with his left hand. I cautioned one shooter to not put his thumb behind the slide of his semi-auto. I had to remind one or two to put on their eye protection. There was one or two other things I advised. The instructor had never said anything nor did he assist the students with any of these problems. Nor did he assist or correct any other problems.
They were firing at ledger size sheets of paper, that is 11 by 17 inches and doing so from seven yards. The warm-up was to take their time and fire six shots. One guy hit with only five shots, another with only four, the Glock shooter missed with all six. Throughout my observation I kept reminding myself ‘He calls these INTERMEDIATE level students’.
The first four or five drills the shooters were to start from a ‘low ready’ position and fire six shots, returning to the low ready after each shot. Glock shooter never did, every drill he would raise his gun and fire all six. The instructor never said anything. He never knew about it.
I held back from much I could have said or done. I did not want to undermine the instructor or seem like I was ‘taking over’ the class however it was almost difficult not to. I did jump in when the instructor stood in of his students (who were all on the firing line) and as he spoke of something, two of them drew their guns from the holsters and pointed them down range though somewhat to the side. The instructor had not thought of that as a problem until I interrupted and pointed it out. He didn’t even seem to notice.
While the instructor took a potty break I inquired how much they were paying him. One hundred dollars each for a partial day.
Part of the problem was very clear. He, the instructor, never watched his students. Yup, He would tell them to do something then never watch them as they attempted to do it.
His written material, some memorized, some read aloud from his notes, was ok, not bad, certainly not wrong but was often incomplete in areas. The drills he had them do were so-so at best but did not seem to be leading to any particular goal. His great error was that he never paid attention to what the students were doing. He could not assist his students, correct their problems, improve their technique, or anything because he never saw them in action. Whenever they shot he would stand in the middle of the line and shoot along with them at the same time. They could have been shooting at each other and as long as they missed he might never have never know it.
After about an hour and a half I was notified that I would be needed elsewhere.”
I fear sometimes there are many of those out there. For some of those instructors it was never a passion or they never had a great desire to teach. Some may be just in it for the money. I don’t care which it may be but I find it disheartening as an instructor that so many people out there are being “abused.”
Once in a while I’ve been accused of being an “expert.” I don’t really consider myself an expert. An instructor named Dan Shea pointed out long ago that there really are no experts in any subject, just Reasonably Knowledgeable Individuals, or RKI’s. I like that concept as it keeps all of us honest and locked into the permanent role of student. I also do not think my way is necessarily the best. I’ve learned things through my experience that work for me and have worked for others. Does that mean that’s it? No, there are other techniques and opinions out there. I’d be a fool if I thought I’d learned it all and that there was no more insight in the world. Times change. Technology changes. People’s ideas change. We must be smart enough to see through the hype and learn new things.
Be open to more training. Never stop learning. Never stop trying to find better ways to teach. Read. Observe. Stay informed.
Semper Paratus
Check 6
Burn

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