Students Must Pay

2-Jan-13 – 14:10 by ToddG

… attention.

It’s a pet peeve of mine when teaching: the student who doesn’t pay attention and constantly holds up the class needing special attention.

We’re not talking about a class being confused because the instructor was unclear. We’re not talking about a student who once or twice over the course of a weekend asks for clarification. We’re talking about That Guy.

That Guy is so busy texting, talking to other students, and playing with his gear that time and time again he’ll walk up to the firing line, raise his hand, and ask, “What are we doing?” Or worse, he’ll walk up to the line and shoot a completely different drill, forcing the instructor to stop class to get him back in line with what everyone is supposed to be doing.

Now I’m the first to admit that in AFHF and especially AFHS the drills get described quickly. A typical exercise will be something like:

  • Three high cap or four low cap mags of 2-5 shot bursts to the 8″ circle from the holster. GO!

If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to miss the instructions. But the solution is pretty straightforward: when the instructor is giving instruction, you should be listening. If the instructor is talking, you probably shouldn’t be playing on your phone, pestering other students about your favorite brand of AR magazine, or doing pretty much anything else that blocks the instructor’s signal from reaching your ears and your brain.

Not only is it annoying to the instructor when he has to explain everything twice, but it’s extremely inconsiderate of the fellow students. If the other ten people on the firing line all know exactly what they’re supposed to do, wasting time hearing it again just because of That Guy starts to get old real fast. At a class last year I actually kept track and That Guy cost the rest of the class almost half an hour over the course of just two days. There’s a lot of shooting and learning that could be accomplished in that half hour instead. The other students quickly got tired of hearing me yell “CEASE FIRE!” just to get That Guy on the right track over and over again.

Of course, some might think the best response to that problem is to let it burn itself out… let That Guy do what he wants and ignore the fact that he’s not shooting the right drills, not ready to go when it’s his turn, etc. The problem with that is the high degree of “Monkey See, Monkey Do” that occurs in classes. If a student is shooting a drill and notices that the guy next to him is doing something different, he’ll often assume he’s in the wrong and start doing it That Guy’s way. Or he’ll stop and want clarification from the instructor. That Guy’s mistakes spread like a disease.

As an instructor, though, you also have to avoid falling into the trap of thinking everyone is That Guy. If half the students on the line don’t understand a drill, it may be time to rethink how you explain it. Maybe it needs to be demonstrated slowly. Maybe just one or two students at a time should shoot the drill to make sure everyone is on the same page. One trick I’ve used for particularly complicated or confusing drills is to ask students afterwards to explain the drill back to me. Sometimes, the way the students think about the drill and understand it is much different than the words I used to explain it… and their description is more efficient, easier to understand, or just plain better.

Dealing with That Guy depends a lot on the individual. Sometimes he’s just scatterbrained and needs a reminder to pay attention. Sometimes he’s an arrogant jerk who needs to be told to shape up or leave. One of the best solutions I’ve found is simply to pull That Guy off the line when he makes a mistake, or wave him off from participating if he’s not ready to go when the rest of his squad begins. “If you’re not shooting the right drill, you’re not going to shoot” or “If you’re not ready to go, I can’t make the rest of the class wait” usually suffices to get That Guy motivated and back in phase with the rest of the universe.

Don’t be That Guy.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 9 Responses to “Students Must Pay”

  2. One of the groups I practice with shoots in relays. The course of fire is given to everyone at first, then *every* time a new relay or individual steps to the line to shoot, the instructions are repeated. The clarity is nice, especially since there can be several minutes between relays during which time the course of fire can be forgotten or misunderstood.

    I think you’re talking about a slightly different problem here tho; since it’s implied that all your students are on the line at once. Still, it may be beneficial to repeat the instructions twice in a row, for those who’s concentration wavered and picked up your commands halfway through the first reading. That’s usually what I do when I teach, if I’m thinking clearly. I’m just armchair-generalling here tho and for all I know you’re actually doing that more often than not. I haven’t had the pleasure of taking one of your classes yet. :)

    By Redchrome on Jan 2, 2013

  3. Todd;
    Some very excellent points.
    Also,nice to see you are at least well enough to get pissed off at dolts.
    Anger can be a good tool for healing.

    By The Fish on Jan 2, 2013

  4. Todd, hope your new year goes well, good luck on the treatments. Yep, also glad you can get mad!!!!

    Ok, by now everyone has a phone and feels they are “owned” by it and can’t live without it…but that is exactly what we did, banned phones during our training classes. At the beginning of every class we had students turn the dang things off or put them in their cars. Amazing how much you can get through to a student when they are not messing with a phone. During breaks they could check messages, but then they go off. We had a dufus walk down the line trip over a fellow student who was prone while trying to read a text message….. that was the last straw.

    By KennyT on Jan 2, 2013

  5. Redchrome — I’m not the least bit concerned with the student who doesn’t get 100% of my message once in a while… that’s at least as much my fault as his. It’s the guy who consistently has better things to do than pay attention, then expects the class to stop while he gets caught up time and time again, that annoys me.

    KennyT — I’ve considered that, but (a) I see a lot of students who take notes using their phones and tablets, and (b) I just don’t feel like it’s my job to play parent to all the students. Invariably you get the officer who is waiting for an important call from a DA, the student whose daughter just had her tonsils out, etc. I’m certainly not criticizing your practice, I simply lack the hutzpah to enforce it myself.

    By ToddG on Jan 2, 2013

  6. What about those of us who simply have our own way of following the instructions?

    Todd: Tyler, why aren’t you shooting?

    Tyler: Because you said to only shoot the numbers in order, and I don’t have #2, so I can’t shoot the others because that’d be out of order.

    Todd: *blank stare*

    By Tyler on Jan 3, 2013

  7. I didn’t read the post, I don’t feel it was necessary. With that said, I completely agree.

    By David on Jan 3, 2013

  8. The first two classes I attended I left my phone in the car to eliminate possible distractions and out of respect to others. The next class I attended was a two day class I’d been looking forward to all year with the wife even getting me a fancy room in some high end resort.

    I think do to excitement and a major storm during the first day of the class I forgot to turn my phone off and had it on me. During a short break I received a call that my mother in law who was doing well in the fight against cancer was close to passing. My wife told me to stay in the class as she knew I was really looking forward to it and she would have to fly across country to see her.

    I hate to admit for a second I almost stayed due to some family drama on that side keeping info from us on her real status. Glad I didn’t I left class 1/4 way through first day hauled ass home while on the phone getting the wife a plane ticket. Wife made her flight by 30 mins which was the last available on for next 24 hrs. I stayed home with the kids while my wife flew home in time to spend a night with her mother alive and was able to comfort her to the end.

    Seen both sides of the phone issue in training with the negative side only being in a recent class but being a father and a husband I wouldn’t attend a class that required me to stow my phone.

    By Pennzoil on Jan 3, 2013

  9. If an instructor is going to ban phones in a class, that shouldn’t be a surprise to the students. It should be listed in the class requirements/signup page.

    FWIW: I would not sign up for that class. I don’t hold up the line, I pay attention, and I don’t find myself on the phone except during breaks.

    By JV on Jan 3, 2013

  10. I agree with the cell phone ban, and that goes to including instructors… nothing worse then having multiple instructors and one is always checking his phone.

    I am a first aid instructor and if you really want to talk about the “what if” guy I got some war stories…. but but but WHAT IF !!

    By Wesley E. Belland on Jan 3, 2013

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