Part One of this article discussed how firearm trainers who do not pay careful attention to time management during classes may not realize that they are doing their students a disservice. I said that there were at least ten actions that might take place that can cause either significant downtime or the overall learning experience of the students to be negatively affected. Five of the ten actions were described as lack of a written class outline, failure to follow the class outline, late starts, not enough short breaks, and overly long lunches. Set out below are the last five of the ten actions.
Late finishes. Obviously, finishing significantly late (more than fifteen minutes in my opinion) should be avoided. The best way to avoid this is frequent consultation with the lesson plan in order to make sure that class is proceeding more or less timely. Causes of delays should be identified and continually addressed during the class.
The “Orator”. When it is our turn to be the spotlighted Subject Matter Expert, it is easy to fall in love with our own voice. This might be a rare opportunity for us to explain in detail what we know about a specific topic in which normally no one would be remotely interested. Instructors should realize that their students may not be nearly as interested in the minute details or a ten-minute history lesson on when, where, and why the tactical reload originated. Instead, instructors might be better served by efficiently and effectively conveying critical knowledge and teaching skills starting with a brief explanation, followed by a demonstration, and then having the students perform the skill. Lectures or lengthy explanations have their place, but most students do not want to stand on the range while their instructor goes on long-winded diatribes. It is amazing how much class time instructors can waste once they get wound up. Instructors who constantly scan their audience when speaking can often tell when the students start getting bored. If that happens, instructors should make sure that they have covered all of the essential points and then wrap it up.
The Assistant Instructor who interrupts class to add insight when either such insight was not warranted, or if warranted they continue to talk long after having made their initial point. Seasoned instructors sometimes forget the pleasure a less-experienced instructor obtains from addressing a class of students from the perspective of being a Subject Matter Expert. These instructors may not realize when they have successfully conveyed useful information and it is time to stop, or that they are more or less saying the same thing that the primary instructor already said. It is typically not a big deal if only done once or so in class and limited to just a few minutes, but that is often not the case. Another problem may be the assistant Instructor who keeps talking to a student while the primary instructor is giving instruction to the entire class or stops the class because one student is constantly not prepared to keep up. Primary instructors should get with that instructor at first opportunity and diplomatically resolve the issue.
One good way to do that is ask the assistant instructor to feel free to step in on occasion and address the class for no more than three minutes if they see multiple students struggling and the assistant instructor has something to add that is significantly different than what the primary instructor said, or those students are not doing something that the primary instructor said to do. Instructors who are in leadership positions should avoid harshly criticizing assistant instructors. High-functioning leaders often possess innate leadership/administration skills that others do not. I am a firm believer that leadership skills can be taught to those who are not natural leaders but wish to learn to be and are willing to work hard, but in many instances they will never be able to perform at the same level as a natural leader who has also put in the same hard work. Leaders should strive to help the assistant instructors see the “big picture” in order to become better time managers. If for some reason that is not possible, then the assistant instructor needs to be removed or replaced
Too much focus on one tree and not the rest of the forest. There is occasionally a student in class that not only is unable to keep up with the class but potentially a danger to themselves and others. That student needs to be dealt with immediately for multiple reasons. An assistant instructor can be assigned to the student who then takes the same to another range for some remedial one-on-one training (we have an assistant instructor who excels at that), the student can complete much of the rest of the class in dry-fire mode, or the student can be dismissed from the class. In the past, we have offered future private one-on-one training to those students at a discounted price. It is disappointing to all of us when student fails, not only because of the blow to their self-esteem but the reason that the student came to us was because they were concerned about their personal safety and hoped that we could help them be better prepared. Regardless, we have an obligation to the class as a whole to make their learning experience as educational as possible, which means that they should not suffer just because one person unfortunately is struggling.
Failure to focus on how the students are reacting and not making adjustments as needed. If the class as a whole is struggling with the material, which can happen with a class largely made up of first-time gunowners who decided they needed protection and up to class time have never shot a firearm, then there is nothing wrong with a conscious decision to vary from the lesson plan and spend more time on a specific essential skill at the expense of a less-essential skill. For instance, more time may need to be spent on trigger and grip control than initially allotted. If so, it is usually possible to spend less time on dominant hand shooting or clearing a double-feed malfunction. The flip side is the basic class that is largely made up of seasoned shooters whose foundational skills are already well beyond that of most first-time students. I see no reason not move more quickly through the outline and then make some of the later drills more challenging.
In summary, I am a major advocate of training classes in which downtime is minimized and effective learning is maximized. One of the better ways to accomplish this is to develop a good lesson plan, follow the lesson plan, and be aware of and prepared for the different variables that can slow the class down or impede learning. I will also be one of the last persons to say that seeking perfection when it comes to time management is desirable. A few minutes off a start time or an occasional longer-than-normal break should have no meaningful impact upon the class as long as it does not occur multiple times during the day. It brings me pleasure to see one of our classes run smoothly, and I can often see similar pleasure in the students’ faces at the end of the day. I want to see those same expressions at the end of every class.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 27 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.