One common trait that top-notch instructors share is they are all good students. I have been to many classes that have been attended by instructors only. Talk about intense people! Those I have been privileged to know are like sponges; absorbing, analyzing and anticipating how information will be useful in their courses and to their students. Free time is spent discussing and reviewing the information with other instructors. They challenge each other and provide feedback. No instructor worth his salt thinks he or she knows everything. They may have their own style or methods, but they are always good students in someone else's class. That is a good example for anyone who attends any type of training. And, let's face it, if you attend a training class, your department is likely to want you to share what you have learned with fellow officers. To do that effectively, you must first be a good student yourself.
Check your gear
Instructors will usually list the equipment needed for the training course. Make sure you have the necessary gear, and that it's in working order. I see people all the time who show up for training with gear they just bought and have never used -- this includes their firearms. I've been to countless competitive pistol matches (yes, they are a form of training also) where people show up with guns they haven't fired recently, or that "just came back from the gunsmith." And they have problems. This is certainly counter-productive in a situation where you are trying to compete with others and do your best.
Certainly any gun, or other gear, can break at any time. But when someone tells me they just bought the gun and haven't fired it yet, that tells me they are not prepared. Other gun problems include: guns that haven't been kept clean and lubricated, sights that are loose or out of alignment, magazines that are damaged or just plain dirty, and holsters that don't fit the guns. When such situations occur, these students end up focusing on their equipment miseries instead of the training.
If a gun or gear fails during training, students learn a valuable lesson at a time and place that will not cost them or someone else their life. But there really is no excuse for showing up with the wrong or inoperable equipment to start with. Don't waste the good money you or your department spent on the class by bringing equipment that is not up to the task. A few magazines of ammo, fired through the gun beforehand, will save you a lot of grief. Even then, always bring a spare gun and spare magazines. You never know.
A little bit of planning on your part can make any training a positive, useful experience. Don't just show up at the appointed time and place. Prepare yourself in advance and you will be able to get the most out of the experience. You may or may not be able to select the course, but you certainly can control your own attitude and preparation. Empower yourself to get the most from your training!
Steve Denney is a former municipal police sergeant, USAF Officer and chief of security/safety officer for a large retirement and healthcare community. A former SWAT officer, crime prevention officer and both military and police firearms trainer, he is currently an instructor for LFI Judicious Use of Deadly Force, LFI Stressfire, and NRA and other defensive tactics disciplines. He currently trains police, military and private citizens. He is a charter member of ILEETA and a member of IALEFI.