What Motivates a Good Instructor?
As a trainer for the past decade, I have learned a number of skills which have made me better at my craft. It has been a process which has challenged me over the years since I needed to be an effective instructor while bringing value to my students. Fortunately, I have had some great follow instructors that have guided me on my path of mastery. I know that I will never truly master the craft of instruction, but the learning process to get better and make an impact with my students keeps me young and relevant.
When teaching instructor development classes for new and well tenured trainers, I ask the question about why we entered public safety. Why take the risks of being a deputy? The universal answer is to help others. This is a key motivation of police officers and deputies who put on the badge and place themselves in harm’s way; they are there to help others.
However, I mention to my students that as we get older and may not be on the front lines of enforcement, we transition into other roles in public safety. I ask my students to let me know who they are trying to help now as we age into our profession. The answer is simple, “Each other.”
While I have taken great pride over the decades helping the communities where I patrolled, I feel an even greater sense of purpose by helping those who are in public service. The sense of purpose is shared by several people that I teach with. They are equally committed to helping others while training. I find myself in good company.
So why do we teach? Simply put, we are trying to teach a behavior, a skillset, or both. But the intent of our training is key. Are we trying to meet a mandate (check the box) or are we trying to make our employees better through a behavior change or enhanced skillset?
Check the box style of training is addressing a risk management problem. Each of our organizations have mandated training which needs to be delivered. I know some instructors who simply read the mandates without connecting with their students. The attitude is simply, “I provided them the information,” and that is good enough.
It is NOT good enough. If you put on the mantle of instructor, your responsibility lies in making the information being taught relevant, experiential, involved, and student centered. Otherwise, you are no more effective than a handout with the needed information printed on it. Your duty is to make the information come alive through the conversations which take place between students and the instructor.
As instructors, we need to identify what behavior is to be addressed or the skillset that needs to be taught. This gives us a game plan for how the course will be delivered. The challenge is to keep your students involved as much as possible. Do not let them simply sit, listen, and disengage. If this is happening, it is your fault.
Have a plan for using case studies, articles, group activities, and videos to create discussion, analysis, and evaluation of the topics. However, with videos, keep the length short since too many instructors show an entire movie when only 10 minutes of edited clips would suffice. Don’t waste your student’s time with unneeded videos. Use your teaching time effectively.
Let us focus on what is needed to be a great instructor. We have seen great instruction and have been impacted by it. Seek out others who will make you better, provide honest feedback, critique your methods, and be a pillar of support when needed. It is not an easy path, but it is one that is well travelled. There is much to learn and ultimately master.
I’ll ask again. Why do we teach? I can attest to personal fulfillment, but ultimately it is helping others with the training I have the privilege to teach. Seeing students succeed is a great feeling and legacy. However, it must be rooted in an instructor’s personal belief that they are conduits of change, information, skill, and hopefully lifelong learning. We love it. We seek it out. Let’s master it along the way.
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Al Cobos is the owner and lead consultant for Dychelon which improves team performance and promotes successful team building. Al has successfully built teams over the past two decades. He has over thirty years of public sector experience in addition to teaching for several universities. His focus is to improve people in their personal and professional lives.