Don't trip: Keep things fresh, but stay on target

Here are some tips on how to keep your training interesting

Keeping training interesting can be a constant struggle. You have to come to the realization that not everyone enjoys training and, in a lot of cases, not everyone is excited about their job in general. They may not be interested in improving their skills to be a better officer. You might even have the student that not only qualifies for all of the above issues but on top of that, wants to be the center of attention by heckling you.

So as trainers, how do we go about defeating these obstacles? Here are a few tips to make this happen and in turn make training more enjoyable for everyone.

Trainers often fall into the trap of trying to keep things fresh. This is obviously important, but what happens when we are teaching a subject that hasn’t changed in twenty years? Teaching fundamentals can be a difficult task.

One trick that I have found is to draw from the recent history of your agency, whether it’s from use of force reports, recent case reports, or even stories from other agencies. When students are able to connect the principle you are to trying to relay to a past experience it helps to internalize the point.

Maybe more important than being “fresh,” being relevant can be critical to meeting your training goals. If you are teaching a subject, or even an aspect of a subject that does not seem important to the group you are teaching, it’s very easy to lose them.

A simple training tool that I have used in the past is a fast and easy one: Pull from your policy. Of course, if you are just standing in front of a room and reading policy, this won’t work. If you use the policy to your advantage it can make all the difference. Routinely I will take a copy of the policy and white out different words. This forces the student to participate by filling them in. It’s cheap, easy, and it works.

I stole this next one from a friend, but it works really well. When teaching an active class, such as a defensive tactics class, it can be difficult to get volunteers to assist in making a point. The trick that I use not only promotes involvement, but also takes some of the heat off of the instructor.

When you need a volunteer, pick out a student in the room and tell that student to pick the volunteer. This forces the first student to participate and the second student can’t be coy or a non-helper because their class has just put them on the spot. So what if you need a certain student to make a point? Well you simply do the same thing but out loud you tell your first student to pick that particular person. This allows for a little levity in the class.

The last tip I have can make a boring class interesting; you can use it in just about every subject you teach if you’re creative enough. Look through your lesson plan and infuse a little bit of friendly competition where you can. This particularly works at the firearms range.

When you pit student against student, it really brings in the whole class. It also adds an additional level of stress for the student to manage. You may choose to supplement this with reward for the winner or even a punishment for the loser; in my experience, it’s better to follow up with positive reinforcement than negative reinforcement.

I have taught classes for several different agencies and academies over the years. Instructors will agree that the hardest audience to teach in front of is your own agency. As one of my trainers says, “no one is a rock star in their home town.” My hope is that with these tips, a little enthusiasm, and the will to make your agency a better, safer place, you can rise above these obstacles. 

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