The Cornered Cat

As an instructor, you are in a position of authority over your students, but that authority is voluntary, limited, and temporary.

It is voluntary because your students choose to enroll in your classes. The students who end up in your classes get there because they have made a choice to do that. They have lots of other things they could have done this weekend, but they chose to rearrange their time to spend it with you. They have lots of other things they could do with their money, but they chose to buy a class from you. You have to treat them with the same respect a shopkeeper would give a customer, because that’s what they are—customers.

Your authority is limited. You can tell them what to do for the duration of your class, in your presence, on the range you control. But you don’t have even a tiny bit of authority to tell them what to do outside of class. Unless you do a good job selling your ideas, your safety procedures,  and your techniques, your students won’t take your ideas home with them no matter how much they paid you to share them. You have to be a good salesperson to help your students get the most out of your class.

Your authority lasts exactly as long as the class lasts. It is temporary. As soon as the class is over, the tables turn. When your students are done with class, they will go home and hop on the internet to tell other potential students about you. At that point, they will have all the power they need to make or break you as an instructor. If you provided solid information in a safe and enjoyable format, you’ll be in good shape. If you didn’t, you won’t.

4 Responses to Authority

  1. wkeller says:

    Very true there Ms. J. That’s what so great about free enterprise – it shakes out (well, does a fair job of shaking out) poor “products”, including instructors and it promotes good ones. The absolute best new student is one recommended by a former student – I love that! The Internet simply accelerates the “word of mouth” to give friends and neighbors a heads up on either a really good class or a really crappy one.

    I really think an instructor’s blog helps too – it lets the “shopper” find an instructor that really fits their needs, let’s them get some idea where the instructor’s head it and allows them to see former student’s responses. It’s a great instructional and advertising tool!

    Good post – something every instructor needs to keep in mind!

  2. says:

    One VERY scary thing for me is how often other instructors are giving out horrible advice. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of it: “if you shoot someone on the lawn, be sure to drag them back in the house;” or “no one should EVER shoot in the Weaver stance – you’ll get shot for sure;” or “if you get trigger work done, the jury will convict you of pre-meditated murder.” Etc.

    For new shooters and those new to firearms training in general, may people actually hear stuff like this from instructors I know well – and those are the stories I know about. How many people are wandering around out there… people who have been brave enough to sign up and take a firearms training class… but then end up getting bad advice? These are the things that truly keep me awake at night.

    So this post really hits home with me.

  3. Pingback:Mom With a Gun » Instructors: Check Your Ego at the Door

  4. momwithagun says:

    This post really hits home with me, too, and I wrote a bit about another aspect of this issue: With our authority as instructors comes the responsibility not to misuse that authority to feed our own egos. I’ve seen lots of great, committed, passionate teachers out there in the world (both in the shooting community and elsewhere), but I’ve also encountered all manner of ego-hounds and even (once, long before I was assertive enough to stand up to it, and not in the shooting community) an instructor who used his class as a platform for sexual harassment.

    Thank you for offering this important reminder, Kathy!

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