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Education and Learning. At first glance, these might seem to be the same thing, but they are actually quite different. Both are extremely important for the firefighter and something that can specifically be prepared for in the coming year.

In the fire service, we continue to pit education and learning against each other and lob verbal derision bombs at those who support one side or the other. We must recognize that they go hand in hand. One can not learn without any type of education as there has to be a base level of knowledge. Conversely, all the education in the world is of no use if it's never internalized and applied in the best manner.

Education is something you get in school, college, or in our case, the fire academy. It's typically done in a structured environment by teachers or instructors who have had some formal training. Generally, one must be educated to receive the desired certification level.

Learning, on the other hand, is not necessarily done in a structured environment such as a classroom. In fact, I'd say that most of our actual learning takes place outside of the classroom. Learning takes place on the drill ground. It is gained at the firehouse kitchen table or on the bumper of the fire truck. Learning is gained through experience, repetition, and exposure to real-time scenarios. It is where we take the formal education and begin to understand how those facts and skills we were taught apply to life and, more specifically, to the fire ground. We learn from everyone around us, even if they are not considered a "formal educator."

Education has an external portion- a teacher delivering content whereas learning is an internal activity. The learner has to make sense of the material for themself and determine how to apply it and when. Learning has a growth mindset rather than a fixed one.

Questions to consider:
In 2020, what is your educational plan? What subject matter are you weak in and so need to spend time in a book or classroom getting educated on? Look for an online course in a specific content area. Attend a conference or seminar that does not have a hands-on-training (HOT) portion; just go for the head knowledge. Read a chemistry book on fire behavior and bone up on the processes that occur when things burn. Whatever the content area, be specific in your plans to acquire new knowledge or just to simply refresh your memory on some things.

In 2020, what is your learning plan? Sure, you know a lot of facts and figures about building construction, but have you truly learned what they mean? Go through the structures in your jurisdiction and see where you can apply the knowledge. Perhaps you can rattle off the needed pump discharge pressures or friction loss at will; that doesn't mean you know how to troubleshoot. Pull some line and learn from someone who is an expert at it. Go take a HOT class and be the first one to go. Don't be afraid of making mistakes or performing incorrectly. Step up and go for it. Learn how to be better at the skill by transferring head knowledge to hands-on knowledge.

Whatever areas you choose to work on, make sure they include both education and learning. Remember, be specific and intentional about this.

2020 Education and Learning Incident Action Plan:
Admit that you have areas to improve in
Determine which subjects or skills should be a priority
Grab a calendar and schedule specific courses or drills
Document what you have learned or how you have improved in technique
Be intentionally committed to the process

My short-list for the year is to improve in the following:
Thermal imaging
Labor management law
Curriculum development

Feel free to share your plan with me at this email. There is power in accountability.

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