Another great question from a student, what is the difference between an instructor and a teacher? Having written on this in more detail prior, it was time to try and simplify this answer. Wait, that was a moment, simplify the answer? Thats it, Thats the Ticket! Teachers break complicated or seemingly complicated factors into simple terms allowing the student to understand, comprehend and apply them. Instructors expand simple factors into complicated concepts requiring the students to pay to instruct them on the intricacies of what becomes completely incomprehensible theory and conjecture!
Good Teachers translate complicated theory into simple application.
Is there just a bit of sarcasm in there, sure, but I believe it is basically true. Teachers translate the complicated into the simple so it can be learned and applied. Its about the students comprehension, not the instructors regurgitation. Instructors often complicate simple matters to such a detailed level it is all but incomprehensible. You see it all the time in firearms training Take something simple, like how to properly employ a firearm and turn it into a treatise (or ten weeks of instruction). Maybe thats why there are ten thousand different “methods” to remove a magazine from your gun and swap it out with another one? Or ten steps, cause we all know lists are important, on how to properly press your trigger. Teachers provide a way to achieve a result, instructors provide a methodology, generally theirs, that is seemingly the best and only way to achieve the same result. Instructors can and often do provide justification for their methodology at times void of the best way to achieve the goal. Its complicated, not everyone can understand, only they can pass it on in such detail you will truly understand why something happens, at times without regard to actually helping them make it happen. Teachers make everyone they teach better, instructors make everyone they instruct think the instructor is better than they are.
Maybe the most obvious example to me is the need to spend hours, even days understanding the difference between an MOA (Minute of Angle) and Mil (Milradian), both very simple means of measurement. I attended one school where they said with evangelistic like enthusiasm, they could teach a 5 day class on that alone never actually setting foot on a range. Problem was he believed it was valuable to more than a dozen people currently residing on planet earth. The rest don’t care, nor do they need it, all they want to do is learn how, not acquire a math degree in the process. Do some people like that, sure, same people who spend months of study from their couch on how to use something only to realize they could never actually do it, let alone apply it in real life. They show up to the precision rifle class with reams of notes on the “theory” behind everything spending so much time referring to their notes they learn nothing and leave as skilled as they were on arrival. It drives much of our industry, clueless students leaving class just as clueless convinced they must pay the “master” more money to help them truly understand. If you have worshipers and followers thats probably you. Teachers create new teachers and leaders, not followers,
So what’s the difference, maybe the best example is a class taught by a friend and colleague Buck Doyle from Follow Through Consulting. His scoped carbine class focusses on one system, the Horus T3 reticle. His task, teach people how to engage and hit 12-24 inch targets with a scoped 5.56mm carbine out to 800 meters in less than pristine conditions in three days using that reticle. My initial thought was “sure that will work”, then I attended, and have subsequently helped with several classes. One class in particular illustrates the point. Comprised mostly of new shooters, one in particular was a bit late getting there, and had only fired an AR once. At the end of day one he was already hitting 12″ steel out to 600 meters with ease, using nothing more than what he was “taught”, not told. Along the way I helped with basic marksmanship, but no mind numbing lectures or incessant drills, just pure teaching through controlled application. Make the complicated simple, pass it on, and allow them to apply it. By the end of class he was doing it from barricades, hay bales, and other obstacles after running a good distance. Did he have a masters degree in methodology, of course not, nor was he tacticool incarnate, but he could apply it, and in conditions very close to real world.
Its not just the gun world, its the world in general.
Another example from my martial arts past is a particular school that was almost fanatical in their “study” of the basic movements of karate, mostly kata. Typical 2 hour workouts consisted of a fifteen minute warm up, fifteen minutes of practice, and an hour and a half standing in a circle breaking down the intricacies of each move. Each could write a PHD thesis on why a particular technique was used, none of them could actually perform those techniques worth a crap! My students on the other hand spent an hour and forty five minutes of their two hour work out practicing with any explanation interspersed as needed. Punching, kicking and blocking is not rocket science, they may not have been able to write a 10 page term paper on why it was done, but they damn sure could do it with a simple explanation as to why. They could also demonstrate its application in real life situations understanding their limitations. Rather than study its “meaning” they practiced and as near as possible perfected its application. More importantly, they were able to pass it on to others just as easily and simply.
In Depth Study Can be Useful
In depth study and understanding of why can be useful, no doubt, and maybe thats the time you need an instructor. Some of my worst teachers were excellent at providing detail that was ultimately of some value. That whole “Hmmm, thats why that works” moment. Need to know the deeper intricacies of how something works, or why it works, instructors are who you want. Sometimes the same person can step off the podium and become a teacher, it happens, rare but they are out there. The main difference is in the timing, learn what to do and apply it either while studying in depth, or follow learned application with in depth study. You would be surprised how much better this works. Not only are you better at whatever it is, you have a better understanding of why its being done in a shorter time frame.
Next time you are training and are completely lost, try and get your teacher to simplify what it is so you can understand it. That is their job, if they cannot do it look for someone who can. If you are teaching and your students look like they are lost, its your fault, not theirs. Simplifie what it is so they can understand. It may require you to think outside your box, meet them in the middle. Do that a few times, and you will see how rewarding it is to teach. Even more importantly, the more you teach, the more you learn, in the end everybody gets better, and that should ALWAYS be the ultimate goal.