Enthusiasm, Empowerment, and My First Teaching Experience

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As I write this, I’m sitting in my living room at the end of a 16-hour day, muscles aching, feeling at the same time physically weary and absolutely exhilarated and galvanized. Today, I was part of a group that taught a basic firearms safety and shooting workshop for women. The course, hosted by one of our local ranges and sponsored by a grant from the NRA, attracted close to 25 women, and it was a wonderful experience.

The class gave participants – about half of whom, I would guess, had never shot a firearm before – exposure to both .22 rifles and pistols, as well as a few larger-caliber handguns and revolvers in .38, 9mm, and even one 1911-pattern .45 ACP. Students got to shoot at Shoot-N-C paper targets, cardboard and steel, and even had a chance to try a mini-Steel Challenge stage.

I’m still processing the day’s experience, since this was my first time teaching, but I have a few experiences and observations to share.

The day’s high points: Too many to list, but working one-on-one with a student who’d never fired a gun before her first experience with a Ruger MarkIII this morning and helping her put forty rounds into a six-inch circle from 15 yards with a 10/22 rifle was amazing. The look of pure delight and awe on her face when I took down and handed her the target? A million bucks wouldn’t have bought that moment. Likewise the expression on the face of the lady who, despite being brand new to shooting, was able (and brave enough) to chamber a round in the 1911 at day’s end and drill a slug a half inch off of the bullseye on her first shot. Another student, whose prior gun experience had all been with .22 pistols, tried every gun she could get her hands on with gusto, enthusiasm, and GREAT form – and put so many .45 slugs into her target’s bullseye that we couldn’t pick out individual holes any more.

The day’s low point: Besides my sore muscles from 7 hours of standing on pea gravel and running back and forth downrange, only one. I carefully packed my range bag last night, but managed to leave the house at 6am this morning without my hat. The range is outdoors, and the temperature was close to 90 under a clear blue sky, so I have a bit of eyestrain from the glare right now. On the upside, I did remember my sunscreen, so I don’t resemble an over-sized lobster right now.

The thing that really struck me, over and over, today was the contagiousness of the enthusiasm and empowerment that the students experienced. Of the group of a dozen or so women I helped instruct, perhaps only 3 or 4 had shot before, but all of them were EXCITED to be there. Even beneath the nerves, there was enthusiasm and energy, and it spread. Most of the students were strangers to one another, and yet they were cheering each other on, and quick to share hugs, high-fives, praise and applause. And you could see in their eyes how wonderful it felt to try shooting and to realize that they could do it, they were capable, and that with the skills they were acquiring they’d be able to take ownership of their own safety. (This was a goal that about 2/3 of the women I talked to mentioned during the introductions at the start of the morning.)

There are already two more of these classes scheduled – in October and January – and I’ve been invited to assist with both. I’ve also been invited to join an effort funded by the same grant, to acquire my NRA Instructor certificate – which, to me, is mainly a license to step up my learning into a higher gear. As AGirl at A Girl and Her Gun has eloquently commented, the NRA certificate is the bare minimum credential one should have to help on a firing line, and I’m under no illusions about what that piece of paper does and doesn’t qualify me to do. But it’s still a useful tool in helping me to move a step closer to being able to share the gift of self-reliance with women, which is my passion, so it’s definitely something I’m pursuing.

The final thing I discovered today: There is tremendous value in teaching others a skill you possess. By helping teach others how to shoot, I was forced to get really clear in my head what knowledge I have, what does and doesn’t work for me, and why it does or doesn’t work. I was forced to adapt my knowledge to new situations and to find ways to make it work in the face of challenges (for example, helping a left-eye/left-handed shooter use an Anschutz-style peep sight, which was very difficult), and I was able to clarify and make explicit a lot of things I’ve learned. The end result, as measured by the targets I shot at day’s end? My own shooting has improved, and I’ve identified some areas where I need additional training and practice.

Giving the gift of empowerment and self-reliance that comes from having the tools and training to own our own safety is a gift that gives to both teacher and student. I had a blast today, and can’t wait to do it again!

I intentionally blurred parts of the photo accompanying this post to protect both the student’s face and an identifying sticker on the rifle. I don’t know why my student had her left hand wrapped around the rifle’s foregrip in that funny way, but it worked for her better than other techniques we tried – proof, I suppose, that one should do what’s comfortable as long as it isn’t unsafe.

Comments

  1. I love it when I get “the giggle” from new shooters – it’s infectious.

    Congrats on your first teaching gig šŸ™‚

  2. Wonderful! Was this a “Women on Target” seminar? I’ve been trying to organize one here, but so far have no terrific volunteers like you to help make it happen.

    Empowerment is the key… When we can help people claim self ownership and self responsibility like this… the ideal goal of teaching anything. Kudos to all who work to make that happen.

    • Not a Women on Target class – I understand we’re working on that but don’t have the necessary certifications yet or something, but similar. And totally worth the hard work.

  3. Mrs. Groundhog says:

    That is so very wonderful both for the first time shooters and the first time teacher!

    • It was really an amazing experience – I feel blessed to have had it, and look forward to more like it in the future.

Trackbacks

  1. […] for Book Suggestions 09.25.2012 tammy Administrivia, Training No comments As I mentioned on the weekend, I’m involved with a series of women’s shooting clinics hosted by a local range. I was […]

  2. […] see, we had another women’s shooting clinic Saturday at my local range, and (like last time) I was helping to instruct. This time, I was teaching basics (grip, stance, sight picture) with a […]

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