Your Preparation Determines Quality of Training Sessions
The Volunteers Corner
Preparation is the foundation for success in training sessions. Extensive knowledge of the subject to be taught is not enough. You have to determine what you intend to teach and plan how you will present the information.
First of all, you should define the specific objective of the training session. For example, “handling hose lines” is too vague and you could take several days to cover such a comprehensive subject. On the other hand, “handling 1 1/2-inch preconnected lines” or “raising a 50-foot pole ladder” are subjects that are limited enough in scope to be handled successfully in a two-hour training session.
Consider the time available for the training session and limit your objective to what can be handled in that time. This means that you probably won’t be able to tell the group everything you know about the subject. You will have to select the information the group should have to attain the training objective. Differentiate between vital, important, generally useful and merely interesting information. Then you can make certain that trivial information does not crowd important details out of the time allotted for the training.
Develop lesson plan: To make certain that you present the selected information in logical sequence, write a lesson plan. Make notes of what you intend to do, how you will explain the subject step by step and how you will use equipment and other visual aids. The equipment itself, of course, is the best visual aid available, but explanations of subjects such as ventilation and strategy require extensive use of visual aids.
Your lesson plan can be typed on regular sheets of paper and used directly in classrooms. For outdoor training, I find it convenient to retype the lesson plan on 3 X 5 file cards. These cards fit in a shirt pocket and are easy to handle outside, where you may be climbing ladders, using hose streams and engaging in other activities that quickly ruin 8 ½ X 11 sheets of paper. You’ll ruin the cards, but you can retype them from your lesson plan that you keep in your files.
In developing your lesson plan, allow time for answering questions and keep the plan flexible enough so that you can spend a little more time on part of the lesson or shorten some of the formal presentation to stay within the time limit. Most of all, avoid getting sidetracked by questions that are not pertinent to the training session. If a sidetracking question is valid, offer to answer it fully at the end of the class.
List equipment: Nothing is much worse than disrupting a training session to obtain forgotten equipment. Avoid this bv making a list of all equipment needed, including visual aids, and putting this list at the top of your lesson plan. Before the class is scheduled to start, make certain that all the equipment you need is on hand. Anything that takes time for you to set up should be prepared for use before the session starts.
When you select visual aids, ask yourself whether they accomplish anything. I firmly believe in using visual aids, but I feel that they can be merely useless interruptions. Avoid selecting visual aids because they are clever or interesting when they add nothing to teaching the subject.
If you travel to instruct, you will soon learn to carry things with you that should be available where you teach but sometimes are not. Extension cords for projectors, three-wire adaptors, chalk, an eraser and a spare bulb for the projector you bring with you are among the extras you should carry. I have had a slide projector bulb burn out during a presentation, but I had a spare bulb with me.
Start on time: As an instructor, one of the positive things you should do is to start each training session on time. Even if everyone is not present, start the class. Once everyone knows you start on time, the problem of latecomers is licked. Looking at it from the other end, stop the training session on time. Volunteer firemen may have plans for after the session and in paid departments, there may be another assignment for the companies. Don’t encroach on someone else’s time.
After the equipment used in the training has been picked up, you can spend time informally answering questions from those who wish to stay longer, but let this be their option.
When you hold a training session requiring a sizable amount of equipment, such as hose, ladders and breathing apparatus, assemble the group and then assign men to get the equipment. By putting everyone to work, the equipment is speedily set up and the training can start before some of the men get bored by standing around.
Good training sessions don’t just happen. They are the result of planning.