Many CERT programs are heading into Basic Training this fall which means Instructors are gearing up to take the stage. If that includes you, here's my virtual fist bump - because I know we both work all year for this moment.
As we start preparing for our future CERT Members to show up for Basic, here are some quick tips they probably didn't cover in your Instructor certification class.
Remember when you were in the chair
If you want your class to have the best experience possible, think back to some of the tendencies you didn't enjoy as you were going through your Basic Training class. What would you have done differently? Do you remember feeling trapped in the room at any point? Were there slides that seemed to stay on screen too long? Was the Instructor in tune with the class or in their own world standing at the podium?
The call to action here is to keep yourself centered at the student's perspective. The risk of losing touch with the classroom increases the more years we spend standing in front of them.
If you are not evaluating your cadre of Instructors - including yourself - I highly recommend implementing some type of evaluation. There are many ways to do this, including
- An evaluation form that is passed out to the students before, during, or after class
- An evaluation form completed by other Instructors observing the class
- Filming and evaluating the Instructors during and after each class
Don't insult their intelligence
What exactly is insulting someone's intelligence? I just did it by asking that question. I might safely assume you cannot provide a textbook definition of the phrase but I would never assume you don't understand its meaning.
We want the class to see that we know what we're talking about. But that doesn’t mean they are totally ignorant. Here are some things to watch out for:
- When answering someone's question, look at the entire class. This way, if the person asking the question already knows part of the answer, they won't feel that you are trying to educate just them. Instead, they will feel good that their question is benefiting the entire class.
- Keep your answers high level and let the class ask for more detail.
- Go back to the person that asked the question and confirm your answer was helpful.
Aagh! The war stories!
One year, we had a guy nearly…
Oops, I almost lost you. It gets us every time. The more classes we teach, the more exercises we facilitate, the more events we attend, and the more experience we have, the more stories we like to tell. War stories should not be cut out of your toolbox, as they can be very effective for driving home a point. They are usually most appropriate when the events of the story resulted in an object lesson for the subject. Don't think that just because the students chuckle at the end of your story that they're wanting you to tell more stories. The class is very aware of the time accrued - and the time lost - from all of the stories. If you see students looking at the screen or down at their manuals when you are telling a story, it's time to move on.
Try saving the stories for before or after class when you are not holding the entire class hostage.
There is no stupid question
How to increase attrition in one easy step: Make someone feel - or look - stupid in front of others.
No relevant experience is required to receive CERT training. Therefore, every CERT Basic class will have a wide spectrum of individual experience, expertise, and - most importantly - learning styles.
Every question is a good question. Try prefacing every answer with "Great question!" or "I'm so glad you asked that", or some variant.
Avoid being dismissive. Every question should get an answer, even if that answer is "We'll cover that next week" or "Can I get back to you on that after class?"
It is okay… let me repeat, it is okay if you do not know the answer. Don't destroy your credibility by using the "fake it to make it" approach. Instead, be honest and let the class know that you need to confirm your answer before you lie to them. They’ll respect you for it, I promise.
Teach to the exercise
Reading slides is a quick way to lose everyone's attention; Teaching 101, right? Encourage your class to read the material ahead of classroom time. There are a handful of benefits to this.
First, students will show up to class prepared with questions.
Second, you will have more time for hands-on activities. CERT is intended to be more of a training than an education. Sitting in a chair and staring at the narrator's notes will not leave as durable an imprint as time spent physically performing that function.
Lastly, your classes will end sooner. Or at least they will feel as if they are ending sooner because a larger portion of the time is spent on your feet and/or working with your hands vs. sitting in a chair.
Go get 'em
You are doing the greatest good; Spreading the CERT gospel, teaching others to be more self sufficient, resilient, and survival oriented. You are growing your program and bolstering your community. Seize that energy and convey it to your class.
Have any additional tips or best practices to share? Let the FCR community know below.
Have fun this year, folks. See you on the other side of Basic.
First Class Responder specializes in many things CERT, including education. It's in our mission: Equip - Educate - Enable. If your program would like help with improving your Basic Training or Continuing Education programs, feel free to reach out to us.