Friday, January 23, 2015

Hot Mess

Back from a no-internet writing retreat on the Oregon Coast. Did over 5000 words in a single day on the "How to Teach" manuscript that has been stuck. Feels good, the information is good. But the book itself (or, at least the conception of the book) feels like a disorganized mess.

Realistically, this feels like a new area. Most teaching methods are traditional, in the sense that they were handed down instead of purpose built. Most are centered around a school paradigm, with a high status instructor and low status students. And most assume that a problem is a problem, that in some way getting skilled at force is like getting skilled at math or engineering or medicine. But there aren't a lot of fields where you have to make quick, accurate decisions with partial information under an adrenaline dump. And in those fields, the most important part of instruction doesn't necessarily come in the class or at the academy-- things are set up very carefully to ensure that the first real encounters don't happen alone. Officers get an FTO. Paramedics work with a partner. Soldiers get assigned to a squad. Civilian self-defense doesn't have the modeling aspect that is so important to adjusting from training to application.

And I don't know the answer either. I have a collection of really important pieces. But a collection of pieces, as a writing project, looks like a mess.

The things I want to cover:

  • The problem, as outlined above-- training for high stakes, low information, low margin of error rapidly evolving situations.
  • Time in emergencies. Discretionary time, time distortion, stuff like that.
  • Evaluating sources. Why social sciences are mistrusted in professional violence fields.
  • Qualities of effective emergency techniques
  • Teaching, training, conditioning and play. Definitions, values and drawbacks. This one is definitely the heart of the matter
  • Scenario training
  • Experience thresholds that rewire your brain and pitfalls and values of teaching from the different thresholds and how to handle teaching to people of different experience levels than your own.
  • Dogma and it's effects. Tribalism versus truth
  • Teaching adults/adult learning theory
  • Big section on teaching professionals including designing lesson plans to standard, evaluation, getting lesson plans approved, required paperwork, coming in as an outsider...
  • Testing effectiveness, evaluating "best practices"
  • Related, the relationship between rules, policy and sympathetic magic. Ritualization of bureaucracy
  • Working in the political reality (finding the line between effectiveness and policy and law; that the rules for how to teach are written around current models, not effectiveness)
  • Bad student profiles and trouble shooting
  • Designing short and long-term curricula
  • Integrating skills (e.g. often, for police, DTs, handgun, baton, OC and Taser are taught in separate classes as separate skills.)
  • Ethics and judgment under survival pressure
  • Training and writing policy for Black Swan events
  • Teaching homogenous versus diverse groups; diversity/homogeneity on different scales
  • Related to above, possibly some advice for people who have never worked in certain environments. Some things that seem like attacks are actually tests, for instance.
  • Explicit power dynamics
  • Glitch hunting and countering social conditioning
  • Managing a career as an instructor
  • Questions, unknowns and twilight zone experiences for some of the sections.
It's a lot. It's loosely related, but feels like it's all over the place. This is the list of things I think I can write about with some value... grrrr. It just looks like a disorganized mess. A shotgun blast of data.

But the first rule of writing is to finish the damn thing. I can organize when the pieces are all done.


shugyosha said...

I see it.

Take care.

Charles James said...

Considering your work to date, it will happen and it will be a good addition to anyone's library.

Tiff said...

I agree - your best stuff always starts from a hot mess. Excited to watch this develop! :)

TWW said...

This kept coming to mind as I read over your post.

ann said...

It looks like you're off to a great start! Lots of compelling topics and you've identified a central theme. If some of those pieces are pared away during the editing process because they don't fit into a cohesive narrative, no big deal. Perhaps they will serve as a good jumping off point for future projects.

I am especially curious about your profile of a bad student. Given the nature of your work, it seems like it would be important to weed them out as early as possible to protect the public and avoid wasting resources on them. Is it difficult to draw a line between mediocre but acceptable and "bad," or are there generally clear red flags?

Mac said...

Black Swan event?

shugyosha said...


until Rory comes and gives a better one. Very, very rare events that catch a lot of attention.

Take care.

Rory said...

In Taleb's interpretation of risk management, the unexpected event that puts everything you know in doubt. Everyone knows that swans are white until you see a black one. The Titanic was unsinkable, until it sank. For our purposes, Black swans are the category of events you can't plan for-- either too rare to have any accumulated wisdom to draw on or particular events so weird that what has always worked in the past is failing, or something truly unique where everything has to be figured out on the fly.

Josh Kruschke said...

What are you talking to us for???? Write! Damn you... Write!!!

*Cracks whip

Rory said...

Ann- for bad student I wasn't thinking someone who might be a bad practitioner in the end. I was thinking students who disrupt or try to control a class or have difficulty grasping concepts.
Strangely, in the world of bureaucracy and government jobs, it is almost impossible to fire someone just because they don't have the aptitude for the job or they don't have the self-control. Those standards are too "subjective."

Scott said...

Attacks vs. Tests, that's great!
Also let me know when you are doing the videos, I want to play the bad student!

shugyosha said...

Sigh... I don't have to _play_ it.

Take care

keithw said...

would you say that you are moving away from martial arts training, or is it just not a topic in this proposed book?

senseijs said...

Waiting on pins & needles for this one, Rory. If you want any help organizing
or editing, you are welcome to pour your hot mess into my email...