You go to the range with your friend and end up sorting out what’s wrong with his grip. You take someone new — and scared silly — to the range, and she goes home with a huge grin. You help random strangers solve problems with their firearms.
Afterward, they say, “You know, maybe you should teach…”
One reason is people need this stuff. There are a whole lot of people who want to learn or are curious but afraid. They want to be able to defend themselves and their families or overcome a fear. They are looking to join a family member in an activity he or she loves. You have what they need: the knowledge, skills, experience and patience to help someone work through challenges and develop skills.
Maybe what you bring to teaching is the personal experience of overcoming a fear. You know how much that process changed your life. Or maybe you have a passion for our constitutional freedoms and believe in the Second Amendment as well as all the privileges and responsibilities that come with it.
Passion and Connection
When you have a passion for something, sharing that passion with someone else — and especially bringing someone new and watching his or her passion develop — is magic. Kindling that fire in another person is an experience that can renew your own fire as well. For me, developing a connection with other people who value what I value and enjoy what I enjoy is the heart of community. It is where our relationships with other people really take root and flourish.
And teaching isn’t just for your students. It’s also for you. Being a teacher will make you bring your “A” game every day, help you tune your skills, push your limits and make you better at what you do.
I teach for all of those reasons — and because I’m a teacher. I love to teach. I love to see a student’s enthusiasm catch fire. I love to see the joy and pride in a student when he or she masters a skill or the elation and relief when a fear is overcome. I love watching students discover their abilities to do things they never believed possible.
What Does It Take to Be a Teacher?
It may not be what you think. Yes, you need to know how to shoot, how to handle a firearm and how to be safe on the range. Just as importantly, you need to know how to listen and how to observe. As a teacher, you have to be willing to NOT have all the answers. You should be trying to ask the right questions instead. It is less about instructing people what to do and more about serving your students.
A good teacher is one who can work with a student where the student is at. Sure, you need to be able to present the material and to know what material to present. But you also have to be patient enough to break it down and present it so the student can use it. You need to be able to observe what the student knows and can do, then identify the thing that will help him or her most.
Being a teacher doesn’t mean knowing everything about firearms. It means knowing enough and being present with those you are teaching.
Have You Got What It Takes?
The most important thing I can tell you is you won’t know until you try! Most people start their teaching journeys feeling like they don’t know near enough. I certainly did. If you have a desire to help people improve or just find you end up doing that anyway, it’s a path well worth exploring. I find I never really know a subject until I teach it. Begin, and you will develop and master the skills you need as you go.
How to Get Started
Like everything else about firearms, getting excellent training matters. Several organizations offer teacher certification programs. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the USCCA’s instructor development program and think it’s a great place to start. Here’s how to go about it:
- Take the Class as a Student. I started by being a student in the classes I wanted to teach. I took the classes not just to learn the material and skills but also to feel what it’s like to be a student in that environment. Pay attention to the material as well as how the teacher teaches it and how well that works for you. Make notes on what you want to include in your material and on teaching techniques you may want to adopt.
- Take the Instructor Training. These classes teach you the material to be taught. The best of them include a lot of skill-building for how to teach. You get to practice presenting the material and get feedback on what you do well naturally versus what you need to improve. You get to work with students and develop your observation and coaching skills.
- Network With Other Teachers. If you’re not quite ready to teach on your own, work with other instructors co-teaching or assisting other classes. Build up your skills and experience, helping real students.
- Hang Out Your Shingle. When you’re ready, start your own classes. This is your own small business, so build it exactly how you want it to be.
About Zee Martin
Zee Martin is a USCCA Certified firearms instructor, medical device engineer, writer and retired world-class belly dancer. She has been published in a variety of trade journals as well as several collections of short fiction. Zee is the owner and senior instructor for Brass Dragon Defense. In addition to her work pursuits, she runs a small farm along with her husband and granddaughter where they raise cattle, sheep, horses, rare waterfowl and livestock guard dogs. For fun during her occasional free time, Zee moderates the USCCA Community. Come check it out!