With the recent increase in gun sales comes a matching demand for gun training, and with that comes an increase of soon-to-be NRA Firearm Training Instructors. There has been a definitive rise in self-defense and tactical firearms schools. In most states, there is no regulating authority or set standards for these schools. As a result, there are as many philosophies and training styles as there are schools. Many schools are offering NRA Training Courses to their students in an effort to expand. Additionally, owners see the value of having NRA Certified Firearms Instructor credentials to attract paying customers.
Whatever the reason for obtaining NRA Firearms Training Instructor credentials, you need to set yourself apart from other instructors. Just as in any profession or activity, some NRA Firearms Training Instructors are better at teaching than others. Teaching is a skill that comes to some naturally; others must work at it. Either way, with the right attitude, you can go from a good NRA Firearms Instructor to a great one.
Know Your Subject Matter
Knowing your subject matter is not as easy it sounds. After all, you enjoy firearms and shooting, educated yourself in your firearm of choice, and took the necessary NRA Training Courses that give you the credentials to instruct. Regardless of your background, remember that each of the NRA courses in Basic and Instructor Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun have required content that must be taught.
I have been teaching the NRA Firearms Training Courses for many years.
Many students who attend my classes today seem to have one favorite firearm and want to tailor their training around that particular gun. That’s why NRA Certified Instructors need to know their subject matter. In other words, the NRA Basic Course encompass all actions, makes and models of common firearms. This takes effort on the part of the instructor.
The most important part of knowing your subject matter includes being familiar with and being able to teach the NRA methods. It does not matter how you were taught before attending class or how your “school” teaches, as an instructor, you are expected and required to teach the NRA way. This means reading and re-reading the NRA Instructor materials. This also means continually watching your NRA Instructor Dashboard on your Instructor portal for any updates or changes, so that you are teaching the correct way with current information.
Always Be Open for Improvement
If you do not continually strive to improve your teaching techniques or content, your class becomes stale. There are always new products and teaching techniques that can be employed if the instructor takes the time to seek them out. Another excellent and fun way of improving your class is to contact other instructors and ask to sit through their class. I have never talked to another NRA Certified Instructor who refused this request. Use the best methods from every instructor’s class you monitor to improve your own class.
I often “team teach” with another instructor. One method we use to improve our class is to continually critique each other. While one of us is teaching, the other sits in the back of the class to get a student’s view and perspective. It is amazing what we observe watching each other from the back of the class. One of the most common things that we correct using these methods is the way we use training aids to get our point across to the class.
That said, the best way to improve your class is to listen to your students. The evaluations that you receive at the end of your class are not just a formality that the NRA Education and Training Department requires you to pass out. These are valuable tools that can help you improve your class more than any other resource. After all, these are your students, and they know what works for them. Be open-minded, and your classes will continually improve. I keep a pad of paper in front of me, and as I teach, I am constantly writing down personal observations I make and suggestions from the students on improvements to future classes.
Make the Learning Process Fun
Let me be clear, firearms and firearms training are serious topics. Rising crime is a serious topic. The constant attack on the Second Amendment is a serious topic. That does not mean you have to conduct a class that is so serious that all the fun is sapped out of it! It is possible to teach a serious class about a serious problem that is fun for the students.
I have talked with many students who have taken various firearms training courses and been shocked to hear their experiences. More than once I have heard from individuals that they went to a specific course to become more knowledgeable about firearms and left terrified they were not going to make it home without being attacked. The NRA Instructor Training Courses teach: “People will forget what you said, forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.” Our goals as instructors are not to put the fear of death in people. Our job is to give them the information they need to handle firearms properly and safely, and to make decisions that best benefit them. Fun classes produce happy students!
Have Excellent Debate Skills
There is a fine line between debating and arguing, and you might be surprised at how often you must walk it while instructing. Many people think they are debating or “discussing” a topic when they are doing nothing but arguing.
Debating is a skill that can be learned. You as an instructor must be willing to put the time in to learn this valuable skill. There are books written on the subject. There are also whole seminars on effective debating techniques. These can be taken in person or watched online. Developing good debating skills is the hardest of the instructor traits to master. This is because it takes a concerted effort on behalf of the instructor.
Remember: If an instructor has poor debating skills, he or she only comes across as a Know-It-All to the class. As we all know, no one likes a Know-It-All.
Maintain a High Level of Enthusiasm
Of all the instructor traits, maintaining a high level of enthusiasm is one of the hardest to do. Complacency is the death knell of enthusiasm. Over time, it is so easy to teach the same course, with the same information, and going through the same motions, that you will become bored yourself. It is easy to understand that if the instructor is bored, then the students will more than likely be bored. You are always “on” while teaching—even on breaks when students may find that time to speak to you one-on-one with questions or comments. As the instructor, the best way to maintain a high level of enthusiasm is to continually improve your class. By working on the first four traits (knowing your subject matter, always being open for improvement, making the learning process fun, and having excellent debate skills), you’ll discover that maintaining a high level of enthusiasm will come naturally!