“So, before we get started . . . . why are you here?”
This is, literally, the first sentence of lecture of every course I do, whether in my “day job” or any of the firearms courses I teach. Why the heck are you – the student – sitting in that chair?
For me – as an instructor, it accomplishes a couple things:
Takes the focus off me: Hey, I have as big an ego as anyone out there. But, THAT is not the purpose of my teaching shooters – something to build my ego. This question helps me “turn my eyes around” and put the focus where it needs to be – on the students. They have specific expectations – things they want to learn. This is their opportunity to directly tell me what they are. They may also have some misconceptions about what I am about to teach them and this provides the opportunity for me to clarify what exactly is about to happen and what is NOT going to happen.
Clarifies things for me: While the core of each and every course and skill set I teach is pretty well fixed, each individual shooter will learn the skillset differently. This question helps me evaluate each person and probe just a bit to start to see how I can meet their need to learn. The expectation I have of myself is that I CAN teach each and every skill to each and every student. This question helps me begin to see how I might have to tweak the presentation to certain students.
Clarifies things for the student: There are times when I ask that question, and I see the “deer in the headlights” stare returned. That person truly has no idea WHY they are there, it just sounded like the thing to do. It gives me an opportunity to help them become more purposeful before the day starts and will lead to a much better experience for them
Sorts out the students: It helps me find the “mouse” and the “ninja” and everything in between. The “mouse” is shy, quiet, will not make eye contact type – and will need to be engage a bit more, usually with a bit of humor and teasing. The “ninja” is the shooter who already knows everything – they really aren’t sure why they need to learn anything from me, but they’re here anyway. My typical approach to them is – “turn your brain off and do things my way for today, then take away what you want.” By addressing them directly, if front of the other shooters – it pressures them to do exactly that, otherwise they look like a jerk and most of their egos won’t accept that. Of course, every now and then I do run into the asshole – I just give them their money back and ask them to leave. Better at the beginning than them hindering the other shooters throughout the entire class.
Enrolls them is the course: Once a student opens their mouth and shares with a class of shooters – they’re “enrolled” in the course, they have a stake to it. I find that it increases their participation significantly.
For those that are clear that they are taking the course to either meet a training requirement to get a carry permit – or they are taking the course to improve their carry skills, it opens the door for a whole different level of discussion.
Why do you want a carry permit? And Do you intend to carry a defensive weapon?
For any number of NEW shooters, they have been so focused on the desire to get a carry permit, they really haven’t paid much attention to the WHY, and as an instructor, I find that’s important to me to know. (and please, let’s set aside the “2nd Amendment Right” argument – I’m right there with you) Many have not even begun to evaluate the process of defensive carry, what it entails, the protection it affords or the risks it brings. This is an important discussion for new shooters to have and one that can be addressed from different angles throughout the course.
For “experienced” shooters who have a carry permit and are in more advanced classes, it provides an opening to discuss “when they carry”. My experience is that way to many carry when they are going someplace they feel uncomfortable – say the “bad side of town”. But, for the vast majority of their days, their defensive weapon rests quietly in their safe, in their bed stand or on a closet shelf. This affords the opportunity to share with them that the only proper place for a defensive weapon is ON THEIR BODY, period. And, hopefully I can move them to full-time-carry, rather that only when they feel uncomfortable.
These two specific questions also open the door for discussion on taking more coursework, at least annually. And, it lets me make my differentiation between “learning” and “training”. I see shooters in my courses as people who want to LEARN a skill. Once they return home, they can TRAIN that skill into their skillset. It takes away the crutch of “oh yeah – I took a training course this year, I’m set” mentality that puts them in the mindset that the “training” course is more important that range time. New shooters that simply want a permit – and see that as the “end” of the process, do themselves – and those they believe they are protecting – no good. These questions force them to move past the basics and on to becoming a true defensive shooter.
So, as a shooter – why do you carry? Can you reach out, as you read this, and draw your weapon? If not, what stories are you telling yourself so you don’t have it with you? Do you carry every day – regardless of destination (giving full due to those that will not allow carry on their property)? My usual explanation is that the last piece of clothing I put on EVERYDAY is my carry weapon, and it’s the first thing I take off and place – in its holster – next to my bed when I get ready to pack it in for the night. And yes, it includes today, Sunday, when I dress for Mass. I do believe God protects me and those I love – and one of the ways he does that is by allowing me to learn the skill set to use a defensive weapon, even in His house.
If you’re an instructor – give these questions a try and let me know what kind of answers you got back and if they helped refocus some of your lecture.
If you’re a shooter – do they help clarify the “whys and wherefores” of your carry and your course work?
Finally, regardless if you are an instructor or a shooter – the next time you take a course, spend a little more time becoming clear on why you’re there and, BE there – set aside your “knowledge” and just experience what the instructor is trying to teach . . . I truly believe it will help you get the most out of the course!