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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

Make a strong first impression on fire recruits

Show a recruit class the department's best instructor from day one to lay the right firefighter foundation

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

Jason Hoevelmann's recent article examining the five traits that great instructors share made me think of graduate school.

The college I attended has a unique — patented, I believe — teaching method. This method is used in nearly all of the discipline's classes — both graduate and undergraduate.

Those of us new to the program, that is not having done our undergraduate work there, were grouped together. No previous undergrad students were allowed in that group.

We were required to take the same course in our first semester. The college selected its best instructor to teach that class.

Of course the result was that our first encounter with this unique teaching method was delivered and managed by the best the school had to offer, with limited outside influence.

The plan was brilliant as it laid the foundation for all of the classes that followed. By understanding the system the right way from the start, we learned more from subsequent classes than had those other instructors that had to re-teach the method.

That first impression stayed with us through the entire degree program.

Fire academies clearly aren't as long as a master's program, but making a strong first impression is just as important. This is more than a chance to teach proper firefighting technique.

It is a chance to ingrain the correct fire-service values in future firefighters. It is a chance to teach others the right way to think when it comes to identifying and solving problems.

As the saying goes, "you don't get a second chance at a first impression." You will end up spending a great deal of time trying to unteach what's learned from a bad first impression.

It is far better to have the department's best ambassador create that first, and lasting, impression. You'll have safer, smarter firefighters for a long time after.

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Robert Avsec Robert Avsec Wednesday, April 02, 2014 1:02:17 PM Great points, Rick. At Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS (where I served for 26 years before retiring as a Battalion Chief) we have followed a very similar philosophy. We considered the role of an instructor in our recruit schools to be (approximately) 50% instruction and 50% supervision and imprinting (the department's culture, policies, accepted behaviors,etc.) The Recruit School Coordinator and Lead Instructor are selected from the incumbent company officer cadre and detailed to the Training and Safety Division for the duration of the school. (They actually arrive a couple of weeks prior to do the planning and scheduling and other on-boarding activities of the school. They also "stay behind" for several weeks after the recruits graduate to finish demobilization work.) On days when additional adjunct instructors were needed, e.g., live burn days or practical skills drilling, first priority was given to additional company officer and chief officers.

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