The Professional Instructor: Tenet #7.
This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published, click here to read it.
"I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution."
I think every instructor I've ever met espouses this belief. I can count on one hand that number that I know to really live it. How do I know this? Because they're the only ones who ever change!
If someone is really putting themselves out there to learn, sooner or later their opinions or beliefs are going to change - unless they’re just studying the same things over and over.
Being an avid student doesn't mean just signing up for another class from one's favorite guru, nor does it mean taking a class from someone whose methodology is largely consistent with one's current worldview. It means seeking out new information and different approaches; being open and receptive to new ideas and giving them full (and honest) consideration.
One reason this doesn't happen is ego, particularly when we're dealing with schools of thought that are of the, shall we say, more testosterone-laden variety. It's hard to admit that one doesn't have all the answers, or one's chosen school/guru might be demonstrably wrong about something. This is why Tenet #2 is so important, because clinging to something out of pride, emotion, or misplaced loyalty instead of logic and reason serves as an impediment to being a student. It keeps one stuck in the same place with the same people doing the same things for the same misplaced reasons.
If an instructor is truly interested in broadening his knowledge and skills, he needs to get beyond that rut. He needs to be able to compare what he knows now with what he'll be learning, and come to a decision that's based on fact, not emotion. Sometimes he'll find that what he's doing is in fact the best thing for his students. However, if he finds that not to be true he owes it to himself (and his students) to change.
There is a caution here: this doesn't mean that an instructor should put himself into this new environment if all he wants is to get validation for his already strongly held opinions - and not listen to anything which doesn't do that. I observed just that kind of person a couple of years ago in someone else's class, and the results were very ugly. This particular instructor was so determined to listen only to those things that he already agreed with that he actually failed to heed the common safety precautions he was given. Luckily no one was hurt (unless you count some ego bruising), but it illustrates the danger of applying this tenet inappropriately.
You have to be open to change. You have to be willing to evolve. You have to look at your curriculum honestly, and be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, you don't have all the answers. Someone else may have one that you'll need for next week's class, and if you don't seek it out it's your students who suffer.
Being an avid student is intellectually risky. This tenet begs you to take those risks.
More than anything, I think, this tenet serves as a sort of litmus test for the professional instructor. Professionals in other fields, like medicine, engineering, law, architecture - heck, even electricians and plumbers - are required by their associations or professional licenses to have a certain number of continuing education hours every year. The idea is that they'll be exposed to the latest knowledge that their fields offer, so that they can put that new knowledge to work immediately. In the training world we don't have that - yet - and it's up to the individual to do it him or herself.
That's it for my exploration of the Code of the Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor. I hope you've found it interesting, but I also hope that you see the value in the tenets of which it's comprised. Tomorrow I'll have some closing comments, and on Wednesday we’ll be back to the normal schedule here on the blog.
(For your convenience, I’ve put direct links to all of these entries in the original “What is a professional?” article.)
Thanks for reading!
-=[ Grant ]=-