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5 steps to become an amazing instructor

Being an instructor is not only an honor but a tremendous responsibility

Law enforcement “trainers” are often given PowerPoint presentations or lesson plans and assigned to “teach” a topic. This results in boring, unproductive classes.

Many factors contribute to the quality of police training. Relevancy to the job, time management, style and delivery of the information, and frequency of skill development and retention, but the ability of the instructor is the most important. This article highlights five steps to becoming an outstanding instructor.

1. An amazing instructor knows their craft

This probably seems self-evident, but law enforcement “trainers” are often given PowerPoint presentations or lesson plans and assigned to “teach” a topic. This results in boring, unproductive classes that have little to no value other than to check a box saying the class was completed.

If a topic is important enough to be taught, then as an instructor, the topic must be thoughtfully presented by someone who has done the research and preparation necessary to put forth a quality product. At many instructor schools, I have heard that for every one hour of training, an instructor should invest at least three to four hours of preparation. While the exact time may vary depending upon the instructor and the topic, there is no question that the best instructors put in a considerable amount of work before teaching their classes.

2. An amazing instructor is passionate about the topic

Throughout the last 20 years, I have heard instructors say something to the effect of, “Well, this is going to be pretty dry” or, “There is no way to make this interesting.” Those phrases are critical errors when conducting classes! Not only should an instructor be knowledgeable about the topic, they should see the value and need to present the topic. When an instructor is passionate about a topic, regardless of what it is, the class is always better.

3. An amazing instructor uses relevant scenarios and case studies

Scenarios are important to demonstrate the value and applicability of the subject being taught, but this does not mean spending the entire class recounting war stories. What it does mean is making the connection for the student as to why the information being taught is important to them. For some topics, this is easy. For example, it’s not difficult to explain why being proficient with a use-of-force tool is relevant. It can, however, be difficult to convey why a civil liability or hazard materials class might be important. But with effective use of examples of actual civil lawsuits or incidents involving contamination by hazardous materials, students will immediately be more drawn to the topic and convinced about the need to learn to handle similar situations they might encounter.

4. An amazing instructor learns from courses they previously taught

The more times a class is taught, the more efficient the instructor becomes in terms of timing, anticipation of questions and general confidence in presenting the information. Instructors must evaluate each class they teach to improve every time.

5. An amazing instructor is first and foremost a great student!

The best instructors almost without exception are avid students. Being a student allows an instructor to constantly build their knowledge base, as well as see other teaching styles and methods of delivering information. They may even be able to see teaching methods that did not work well. By routinely placing themselves in the role of student, instructors enhance their overall ability to teach outstanding classes.

Being an instructor is not only an honor but a tremendous responsibility. Instructors have the opportunity to motivate officers, shape careers and provide skills that may one day save a life. If you ask most cops who had the greatest impact on their careers, most will mention one of their trainers or instructors. Law enforcement instructors must strive to become the best mentors, leaders and motivators they can be. Train hard and be safe!

Tyson Kilbey has more than 25 years of experience in law enforcement, consisting of three years as a hotel security supervisor and 22 years as a deputy sheriff for the Johnson County (Kansas) Sheriff’s Office. He has worked in the detention, patrol and training divisions, SWAT and accident investigation units. He is currently a captain of the Training Unit for the Sheriff’s Office.

Tyson authored “Personal Defense Mastery,” a follow-up to his first book “Fundamental Handgun Mastery.” Tyson is a Jiu-Jitsu black belt under UFC Pioneer Royce Gracie. He has numerous defensive tactics and firearms certifications and has received multiple awards in competitive shooting and grappling. He is the Match Director for the Brandon Collins Memorial Shootout, a shooting competition named in honor of a deputy who died in the line of duty. Proceeds from the match go to charitable causes.