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A student in your class is distrupting the flow of the class. (Feet up on table or reading newspaper, texting or talking) Consider this in two scenarios:
1. A in-house class made up of your department members
2. An academy style class with members from many departments

Do you approach or handle this differently due to the audiences?

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I would handle them differently. For in-house members I woudl address this the same as any problem employee situation: Make general statement to group about paying attention/why we are here in the classroom, followed by polite but pointed "request" for behavior change directed to the student, followed by private coaching and counseling during a break or at the end of the class. Ultimately, I could result to formal discipline if the behavior is reoocuring and the aforementioned techniques do not work.
One of the things I have tried to promote in my department is the use of "training" as pre-discipline. Whether it is this scenario or a problem with performance on a call (member could not perform an expected skill or had poor interaction with citizen, for example) I want our company officers to bring the member into the office (could be an office or the tailboard-other members used as needed) and state the expectations or standard, have the member return demo the expecation or skill, then write it up an a drill sheet. On the drill sheet under "description of drill" the officer would write something like "reviewed safety procedures for use of hose tower-see back of report." On the back side of the report the officer would list bullets such as: "Read Hose Tower Use policy, demoed and return demoed use of fall protection and required PPE, stated complinace is not optional and failure to comply may result in future discipline." I encourage officers to do this to make sure the members knows what we expect before ever being written up. MOst people follow most of the rules most of the time. I also feel this is a softer "warning" but a clear warning that is clearnly about the organization and removes much emotion. However, I would be remiss if I did not say this program is not as successful and I would like it to be.

With regard to the academy style class, I would depend if it was a candidate/new hire or someone out of basic training. SInce in my department's basis training we state on day one what is and is not acceptable classroom behavior, I would do that same for any multi-department entry level program. For all others, I would talk to the member on the side during a scheduled or impromptu break or after class and state that the particular behavior is unacceptable, why amd what the expectation is. I would also inform the member of the consequences which would be my dismissal of them from the class and thier return only after meeting with an appropriate member of thier department's staff (relative rank of staff member compared to rank of problem student).
Since most classes I conduct are either hands on or management-type, my concerns are different. WIth hands on, it's all about safety. A slacker or goof is a risk. In management, I cannot preach the bible but not walk the walk. It is also disrespectful to the majority of the student who are present to truely learn to not address the problem ASAP.
You should from the start outline what is expected from the student and what the penality is for non compliance. I would give one warning. If it continued and the student was a distraction to the other students then they would told to leave the class. Period!
Well for scenario one I have had this problem with a few of the "young blood," my solution there is ususaaly based on that individual, however it must be immediatly addressed in session to prevent others from causing future problems and loss of control. Sometimes I can get another officer or senior to handle the problem so I dont have to stop the session for one person this works well.

Scenario two is easy, our academy and state have specific rules on the matter, it states that all problems in class are dealt with by the instructor. First infraction a verbal written is given to the student after being counseled, a letter and phone call go to thier Chief and the trainging commitee chairperson. Second offense the are removed from the entire program and are not allowed to return. Having a strict set of rules on the matter allows the students and their departments to know from the begining we dont have the time to mess around.
In house training is the easy one for me. We don't allow cell phones, newspapers and the like in training sessions. Talking in class is usually not a problem for me as I am a Battalion Chief all I have ever had to do was stop teaching and look at the person talking, problem fixed.
Academy style classes I tell them on the first session what I expect and what I will tollerate. Cell phones are not tollerated. I do inform them to let me know if they are expecting an important call, I then expect them to have the phone on vibrate and leave the room before answering.
As far as all discipline matters go I discipline to protect the organization, not to change behavior. All persons have the ability to follow rules or not. Discipline doesn't correct an adults behavior but it may convince others in the class to follow the rules. To prevent the mischievious student from becomming a problem student, I tell them to leave and send a follow up letter to their chief detailing the situation. He is usually the one who paid the tuition.
Its all about respect and discipline. If we let these individuals get away this then it becomes a cancer. As the Training Officer, you are in charge. I would ASSUME that the Chief would fully support whatever the TO had to do to maintain discipline and order in the classroom!!!!!!
1.) Warning - Everybody deserves a fair warning
2.) 2nd warning - State that one more warning, removed from classes
3.) Removed from class - This will show the rest of the class that you keep your word, and can maintain control of the group.

Recruit class is a different group because we own their "Butts" we need to teach respect.
Good point and question Brent, I'll post this in the regular forum too.

The basic response is one on one work with the individual. Try to identify what the issues are. It may be a legitimate learning issue or some other motivational factor. Trying alternative learning methods to see if that may help too, remembering that everyone responds differently in similar learning environments.

Sometimes though, despite all your efforts, some can't do it or learn it. Your best response is to remove them from operations where they can get themselves or someone else hurt. It may be a hard decision, but in the long run, its the right one to make. I sleep better knowing I've sent people on their way instead of brushing over those who can't do it.
While not having to deal with something so blatant and disrespectful. Firefighters, myself included are like kids they need to learn and be entertained. If you put the time in to develop a quality program that has lots of photos a few funny video clips and you keep the class moving you will avoid a lot of problems. Also what example have you set as you were coming up and be sure you have credibility in the subject you are teaching? It has been said “You can fool the spectators but you can’t fool the players. “ Anytime I have had someone talking or an issue I walk towards them when teaching and give a quick glance. 99% of the time this is effective and not disruptive to your class. If they don’t get the hint ask them a direct question to pull them into the lesson. If you are teaching at an academy and the firefighters company officer is there at this point give them the look. I have been teaching since 1992 and haven’t had to ask anyone to leave, but if it came down to it that is a simple solution.
With in house training I would ask the person to comment on what is being taught. Since they don’t need to pay attention then they must already know all there is to know about it and they should be able to help teach. This is used when I know they don’t know much about the topic. We have been lucky and don’t have a problem with our own people, yet.

I did a FF I/II class this year and would have problems with talking or texting while in class. The talking I would just stop teaching and look at the persons talking and wait till they realized I was not speaking and they would be embarrassed a bit and would shut up. The texting I didn’t catch them doing other than one guy and I looked at him during a video while he was doing it and he explained why he was texting. The reason he gave me was a good one at the time. I don’t know if they where and I just didn’t see it or if they would check their phones on breaks but texting was not a problem. They where to be on vibrate during class so that if they got a call they could check it and if it was family or someone that would more than likely have something important they could leave the room and talk. Otherwise they would call back during a break.

Next year I’m thinking about having them put them in a box in the front of the class and telling their family and friends if it’s important to call the station and the guys working will get them the message or if a phone rings it will be the signal to put on their PPE just as if I had told them “GEAR” (when they are told that they have to go get their PPE on).

Next year they and their Chief’s will get a copy of the rules for class and if they violate them I will be calling their Chief.
This is no time for "touchy feely" intervention. Kick their butts out of the class and have their officer deal with it.

There are many firefighters in class who want to be there and are waiting for the instructor to take care of this problem.
If the students are quietly talking or discussing I would let it go as long as it's not interrupting the class flow. Some just need to reaffirm what they thought they heard by asking others. It can help them keep up with the instructor. Cell phones, newspapers, physical disruption or computers are a no. Some do take notes on computer though. If it's a definite disruption, call them on it privately or use techniques that maintain attention. If they don't respond then further action should be taken. Just remember to take a look at their learning style. I've found after 26 years of teaching that students today have much different learning styles than those 10 years ago. Also take a good look at your own teaching style, lesson plans, content and practicals.


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