Saturday, November 04, 2017

Teaching Nubies: Herding Cats

I teach a class in Introduction to USPSA (see: previous post).

The very first class I taught (about 8 or 10 years ago ... seems like longer) I had no NO experience in teaching a class but I had a decade or two of competition experience, so I thought I knew everything I needed to know to teach people how to shoot in USPSA competition.

I didn't know how little I knew, and neither did my home club (Albany Rifle and Pistol Club in Oregon).   So when I was approached by the club president to teach this class, I had no idea how little forethought had gone into the proposition by the club president.  He wanted to encourage people to participate in club matches (a money maker for the club) and thought it was a fine idea to find a willing sap member to teach the class. 

I was the Willing Sap. 

I had full control over the class; nobody else was willing to touch it.

The people who signed up for the class (there were 13 of them) were typically people who were not  ... through no fault of their own ...competent to shoot a pistol in any venue, let along in competition.  I had no help, no assistant, and I accepted anyone who showed up at the date and time and place designated.

Some of the people not only didn't know that they had to keep their pistol on 'safe" from time to time, they didn't even know that their pistol had a "safety catch"!

And it got worse from there; fortunately, nobody actually fired their pistol until they thought they were on target.  Other than that, it was like herding cats.

Some didn't know that part of IPSC-style competition involved reloading their pistol.  Others didn't know when, how or why to reload.  Of the 13 students, at least a few didn't know that when their pistol stopped working ... they didn't need to have permission from their instructor (me) to reload.

Some only had one or two magazines; there was no agreement among them about how many rounds they should load into their magazines.  Most expected the Range Officer (me) to tell them what to do next, why, or how. 

(I take back that comment about "herding cats"; Cats at least know how to yowl and run away.  There were times when I wished I was as wise as a cat; I stuck around, and tried to learn faster than my students.)

Since then, the club has initiated a number of 'supportive' classes, not the least of which have been "introduction to pistol shooting" where the students are taught all of the controls on their pistols, when why and how to use them, and what those 'controls' do.

I am very grateful that my club has been willing to learn as fast as they can.  The folks who pay for instruction on such courses as "Introduction to Pistol Shooting" get their money's worth.

More important, when they show up at my "Introduction to USPSA" class, they have been taught the rudiments.

Unfortunately, that class has often been scheduled immediately before the "Introduction to USPSA" class, which I teach.   People who take two classes "back-to-back" are sometimes overwhelmed by the instruction,

It may be a better plan to allow "new shooters" at least a week to assimilate the instructions that they have already been taught, before they are advanced to more complicated competitive techniques such as those which I teach.

ARPC might take notice of this, and consider rescheduling classes.  But I doubt it will happen.


Alien said...

The club to which I belonged for 27 years (I let the membership expire when i moved away), and at which I taught NRA classes and was an RSO, has a similar problem. All new members must go through a 6-hour rules and safety orientation and qualification (there are minimum performance standards required for use of each of the ranges which must be successfully demonstrated in supervised live fire) before being allowed to use the range(s) (there's a separate orientation and qualification for use of the action ranges (IPSC, IDPA, Cowboy, ICORE, 3-gun) etc. for practice) and existing members must re-do orientation and qualification periodically.

It was discovered that a surprising number of new members were substantially ignorant of basic firearms operation and usage. To that end, it has been proposed that the club conduct a generic, multi-gun (handgun, rifle, shotgun) "F.I.R.S.T. Steps" type of class as a precursor to the orientation. Don't know where that stands, but it seems a good idea.

RetMSgt said...

If you've never taught a class before, then you're the first that must be educated, which includes being comfortable doing public speaking.

Step 1 - Scribble down on paper exactly what needs to be taught.
Step 2 - Formulate a lesson plan. This keeps the instructor on track without wandering all over the place.
Step 3 - Make certain Step 1 includes The Four Rules of Firearm Safety. This needs to be hammered home throughout the entire class session.
Step 4 - Let the students know what is expected of them, what to bring, what not to bring.
Step 5 - Practice giving the class beforehand, in front of a mirror if necessary.

Then go out and try to herd cats.

Jerry The Geek said...

I wrote this incidental piece of fluff with the expectation that there were approximately four people (those who regularly read my blog) who would actually read it ... and perhaps learn something from it when it came their turn to teach a class of people who have never fired a pistol before.

It was intended to be informative, perhaps even helpful for other instructors. It was not expected to be picked up within 12 hours and linked on one of the more popular firearms-oriented websites ("The Gim Feed").

My best contribution is that I avoided identifying people by their given names, so I hope that anyone who reads the article will not be embarrassed if they recognize themselves in my casual comments.

Many people have mentioned that you must be careful what you post on the Internet, because everyone will read it. Okay, so I always assumed that my usual readers (all four of them) would profit by my experiences. I didn't expect to discover that it would be published internationally and be read by 6,793 (approximately) strangers by the time I checked my email the next morning.

By the way, those instructors who offered friendly advice about how to teach a class of "nubies" about proper firearms safety procedures? You're all exactly correct; except that the unexpected wave of publicity might have the the salubrious side-effect of making the general public slightly more aware of the fact that people who pick up a gun for the first time will benefit from seeking training.

If I seem to have denigrated "new shooters" in my comments ... hey, you should have heard what my U.S. Army instructors had to say about my co-members in the Basic Training class in 1968!

I never fully appreciated their patience until I found myself in a similar situation in 2008.

PS: So far, none of the people who "benefitted" from my training have shot themselves, or anyone else. As far as I know.

So far.

Anonymous said...

I don't get this? People sign up for a class to learn how to shoot. Instructor surprised they don't know how to shoot.