Written by: Greg Ellifritz
At the Rangemaster Tactical Conference last month, quite a few of my fellow instructors and I had some in depth conversations about the topic of teaching. The general consensus we came to was that there is an endless variety of information available concerning the relative merits of every tactic and technique under the sun. There is a relative lack of information, however, about HOW to teach. The art of instruction isn’t given nearly the press that the specific techniques are.
That creates a situation where skilled practitioners don’t have the basic abilities to impart the knowledge they have to their students. It takes a lot of practice and years of experience to get good at teaching, even after you’ve mastered the skillset you are trying to teach.
In an attempt to remedy this discrepancy, I’m going to regularly share some teaching tips that I’ve learned over the years. The articles will be short, to the point, and will be full of actionable information without any fluff. The first topic I’d like to discuss is using voice commands on the firing range.
Did you know that you can both positively and negatively effect your students’ performance by varying your vocal tonality? Most instructors don’t understand this and are missing an important way to help their students learn.
When teaching a large group and giving firing commands with everyone on the line, vary your vocal sense of urgency and you will see your students respond differently. I’m not talking about varying the volume of your commands. All of your commands should be loud enough to be heard by everyone on the line. I’m talking about the difference between screaming the command and calmly (but loudly) saying it.
Imagine the difference between an instructor screaming “GUN!” by surprise as a firing command. Now imagine the reaction if the same instructor spoke in a calm tome of voice and said “Shooters ready…..Fire.” The students will react very differently to the two commands.
Most novice instructors will only use one method or the other when a combined approach would yield much better results.
Until I know my students well, I generally don’t scream my range commands. Some students are stress monsters and will completely freak out if you start screaming at them. Let them get comfortable with the skill first. Start out with calm and measured vocal firing commands. As they are first learning a specific skill set, your students don’t need the extra stress. They need calm, focused thought to master what you are trying to teach.
As I continue to teach during the day, I get a better feel for my students’ abilities. Once they have learned what I am trying to teach them, I will generally want to add some stress to the mix. Stress (and pain) make learning faster, but only after the basics have been mastered. When I want to start adding stress, I will give range commands by surprise (without a “ready” command.) I will also raise the level of my verbal intensity. In doing so, I’ll instantly see students acting with more immediacy and urgency. They will start to hurry and to fumble. I want that to happen…but not when students are first learning. Save the stress for a little later when the students can truly benefit from it.
Here’s your assignment:
During your next shooting class, vary the urgency and intensity of your range commands. If your students are nervous, vocalize in a calm manner. If you want to test them a little, up the intensity. I think you’ll be pleased with the result.