King of the road: what do you do about an instructor with an attitude?

King of the road: what do you do about an instructor with an attitude?

Over a year ago I read a review of a training course on one of the gun forums. It’s been long enough that I don’t remember what the course was, or who the instructor may have been, so I don’t think I have any dog in the fight. Besides, it’s not the particulars that matter in this story; it’s the student’s attitude that I find most intriguing.

The person in question had taken a weekend course at some gun school and was very critical of the instruction received. As I recall, it wasn’t the material itself about which he was complaining – it was the instructor’s attitude. The writer was upset because the instructor had insisted that his students perform the drills as he taught them, rather than as they were used to doing. According to the reviewer, the instructor took a “my way or the highway” approach to the material being taught. This, apparently, was a Bad Thing.

My thought was (and still is) that this illustrated not a poor instructor, but a poor student.

Why does one take a course? To learn a new skill, I should think. If all a student wants is validation of what they’ve already been taught, then he or she should simply repeat the courses already attended. Taking a new course will naturally expose the student to new material, and doggedly resisting that exposure is counter productive for both the individual and the other students.

If one is going to learn a new skill one must first be exposed to it and then take the time to practice. If someone goes to a class and decides immediately that they don’t want to do that, what’s the reason for being there in the first place? If you take a class, you do it the teacher’s way – that is, after all, the whole point of the event, is it not?

Ultimately the student – not the instructor – is responsible for his or her own competence. The instructor’s job is to present material competently, logically, clearly, and factually, but it’s up to the student to take advantage of what is being provided. An instructor who insists that, while in the class, the student practice only what has been taught isn’t arrogant. (As long as the material has been clearly presented and the students have been given an opportunity to seek intellectual clarity and comfort with that material, of course.) An unyielding commitment to structure provides the proper environment for the student to become competent if he/she so chooses.

Whether or not one “likes” new material is irrelevant, as we’ve all had the experience of disliking someone or something until we got to know them/it better. Part of the process is habituation, which only occurs with repeated exposure. If the instructor doesn’t insist on that exposure, letting the students do it their own way, how are they going to really know if it’s for them? What other frame of reference can one use to make any sort of a judgement?

Note that I’m not considering the quality or applicability of the material in this argument. If the student deems the techniques or processes are silly or illogical or superfluous relative to his needs, he is always free jettison them after class has ended. During the class, though, they need to be done the way the instructor is teaching them – and he should insist on it.

(I am not addressing the very real instances where a physical issue prevents the student from doing something the way it’s been taught. That’s a separate issue, and the instructor should be willing and able to accommodate the student’s limitations.)

“My way or the highway”, to me, is simply an instructor’s insistence that a student pay attention and get in enough reps to at least start on becoming competent. I think a student should look for that attitude in a trainer, not complain about it!

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On September 14, 2011