What is your Instructor Identity?

What does it mean to be a Defensive Shooting Instructor?  How do you define yourself as such?

2013 is the 10th Anniversary of the Combat Focus® Shooting Program and it has now been almost a dozen years since I left police work to focus on a full time career as a professional firearms instructor. In that time, I have had the honor and pleasure of working with most of the top names in the industry, been associated with many of our leading companies and taught in almost ever state in the union and a healthy handful of other countries. I’ve published a few books & scores of articles, produced several dozen training DVDs and been part of a number of television shows. With all that said, there is no higher source of pride for me as I look back than that which comes from thinking about my students: from the very top of our nations military special operations community right down to people who have never shot a firearm before their time one the range with me… as well as the millions of people who have watched my DVDs or other videos and read my work. Over the years, it has been the response from students that has always been the most humbling and motivating part of my experience as an instructor. For a long time, their progress, response and supportive recommendations are what defined my contributions. Over the past few years, however, I have started shifting much of my focus towards helping others to experience that same pride and motivation through Instructor Development. I now count thousands of people who are personal defense and defensive shooting instructors among the ranks of my students… and I know that they are “passing it on” to their own students.

So, how did I get to the point where I am focused on Instructor Development? When you decide to teach people, you need to have a really firm grasp on why you are doing it and what you are trying to accomplish. For me?  When I was a police officer just dabbling in teaching, I realized that I could accomplish a lot more (…a lot sooner) in regard to educating people, helping them to be safer and changing the way the industry approached defensive firearms training from the private sector side than I could by building up the seniority to earn a lead training role in the public sector. I also saw a disturbing trend in the public sector instructors, which showed that the longer someone stayed in an organization, the more likely they would be to support that organizations prior training policies simply through inertia. As I began establishing myself by writing articles and working as an adjunct instructor, I learned more about teaching, developed my own opinions further and found more opportunities to work with a variety of students. By 2003, I had a position as a “Director of Training” at a facility and was teaching my own curriculum. By 2004, I was working with a staff of instructors… and that was my first taste of Instructor Development. Looking back, I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, I had hired some great guys with a knack for teaching and a sincere interest in doing it well. The following year, I was asked to create a formal CFS Instructor Development Program for a military unit that was tasked with teaching some of America’s most elite warriors. Obviously, that was an honor I couldn’t pass up, and it was through that project that I really got a taste for teaching others to teach. That project forced me to think about the aspects of what we were teaching in the CFS Program that were most important and how to get other instructors, probably with wildly different backgrounds and perspectives, to understand and share those concepts. By examining the foundations of what I was teaching at that level, I actually began to understand my own program better. Teaching others to teach made me a better teacher. It also improved the program. In fact, to this day, as the CFS Program evolves, I earmark the significant changes by making them official only when they have been taught during an Instructor Development Class. Unless I have taught others to share it with students, I don’t consider it part of the program. As much as I enjoy teaching people intuitive defensive shooting and other aspects of personal defense, I have turned to defining myself by what I can help others to pass on.

Are you an Instructor? Do you want to be an Instructor?  If so, answer the following questions:

Why do you want to teach?

How are you doing (or going to do) that?

How do you measure your own success?

When you answer those questions with brutal honesty, you will be in a great position to develop your ability and improve your performance. Only by making yourself a better instructor can you improve your ability to meet your goals. Understanding your Instructor Identity and what defines you is a fundamental part of instructor development.

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