What do we mean by best?
Reasonable minds may disagree on what makes a great police trainer. For purposes of this article, I agree with Ken Bain, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at New York University and author of the book What the Best College Teachers Do.
Whether in policing, grade school, or universities, the best teachers,
Help their students learn in ways that make a sustained, substantial, and positive influence on how those students think, act, and feel.
If your training doesn't impact how recruits and officers think, act or feel, you may be contributing to global warming by simply adding hot air to the ozone layer.
What do we mean by bravest?
I was a certified teacher for five years before I went to law school and served as a state and then federal prosecutor for over ten years. I trained law enforcement officers during the years I was a prosecutor and made it my third career over a decade ago. I've also been writing a monthly article for Officer.com on training for several years for which I've done a lot of research.
I relate these nearly 35 years of experience training, public speaking (that’s what a lot of trial practice is), and researching and writing about training to place my next statement in context.
I still get nervous and sometimes scared every time I face a group of adult learners.
Most people are surprised when I confide such anxiety. But I have learned poise as Earl Wilson, an American journalist, defined it.
The ability to be ill at ease inconspicuously.
I have to work at being poised every time I'm about to face a group of learners. The hard-wired biology of this fear was revealed to me in Scott Berkun's book Confessions of a Public Speaker. Berkun explained that human history has identified the following four things as a threat to our survival:
- Standing alone
- In open territory with no place to hide
- Without a weapon
- In front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you
Historically, these things raised the odds you'd be attacked and eaten. I choose not to join a chorus of back up singers or hide behind a lectern, and I'm not a firearms instructor. I've had to learn other mechanisms to cope.
For one thing, I've come to recognize that fear or nervousness is about me and my training should be about my learners. Just before I face any group, I stand with my feet shoulder width apart and my hands at my side. I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, try to stretch at least three inches taller and say to myself,
Let me be worthy.
That helps me channel my nervousness into a commitment to my topic and audience.
To me, the bravest trainers are those who harbor fears and anxieties and choose to train anyway. They are also some of the best trainers.
As Edward R. Murrow, the prominent radio and television news broadcaster, said,
The best speakers know enough to be scared... the only difference between the pros and the novice is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.
I also think the bravest trainers are those who share control of the training / learning process. If you're scared when you're totally in control, it is a lot scarier to give up some of that control. If you don't, you may end up with just the training half of this process - which only results in your mastery of a subject area and a bunch of hot air.
Tips for Liberating Yourself and Your Learners
"With great power comes great responsibility." So said Ben Parker, uncle to Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. If you share the power of the training experience with recruits and officers, you can also share the responsibility.
It took me a while to work up the courage for this next tip in my own training. I'm sure I got it from something I read but I can't remember the source. If you know, please email me so I can give proper credit.