If Teaching Artists Ruled the World: CPR/First Aid Courses


Would you know what to do in a cardiac, breathing or first aid emergency? The right answer could help you save a life. With an emphasis on hands-on learning, our First Aid/CPR/AED courses give you the skills to save a life.

From the Red Cross website

  1. Empowerment vs. Know-it-all-ness:  Isn’t the whole point of taking a CPR/First Aid course to empower regular ole’ folks to know what to do when emergencies arise.  We learn the skills so that we don’t sit around saying “um…that guy has fallen out…oh well…I hope an ambulance gets here soon.”  It’s so we can assess the situation, jump to action, and do our part to increase a person’s chance at life after an emergency has happened.  What I experienced today was the opposite of an empowering learning experience.   Our instructors were so proud to know all the right answers that they talked and talked and talked…much longer than they needed to to give us the information we needed (I mean, really, how hard is it to understand “apply pressure and bandage the wound?”)  Following the ridiculously long instructions, they then gave us a couple minutes to practice and spent most of that practice time looking over our shoulder and nitpicking about what we could be doing better.Teaching Artists understand empowerment.  If a Teaching Artist were in charge of this class, she would have provided just enough info for us to practice the skill then she would have stepped back and let us practice it.  While practicing, she would have walked around quietly observing, only stopping us if we were completely lost or doing something that would have killed a real person.  Following the practice, she would have asked us to reflect on our experience, given us her impressions of what she noticed, given us a bit of feedback, and had us try it again.  This process gives learners the power and confidence to embody the skills they are learning.  This process would have made me feel much about my ability to respond in an emergency.
  2. Scenarios as Learning Tools: Many times throughout today, I found myself wondering, “Wait.  When would that happen? Or, where might that happen?”  I wanted more context.  I realized that I wanted a story.  Practicing the skills would have been much more interesting if the instructor had used scenarios to bring us into the action.  What if the instructor had said, “Once upon a time, you were sitting in a cafe eating lunch with your friend.  You hadn’t seen her in a long time.  You are having a great time.  Talking.  Laughing.  When all of a sudden, the woman sitting next to you starts to choke.  She is coughing loudly at first but then…the coughing stops…and she grabs her throat.  Ready?  Go!”  Wow, that would have made the class engaging, even fun.  I would have been able to picture myself at the scene and imagine how I would respond.
  3. Building Community: At the beginning of class, the instructor did something I thought was actually quite cool.  He took role call and said, “when I call your name, tell us a bit about why you are here.”  Through this simple act, I got a glimpse into the incredible diversity of stories in the room.  There were social workers who simply needed re-certification for their jobs.  There were folks preparing to work on-site at a hazardous waste facility.  There was a middle-aged woman who seemed nervous (“I haven’t been CPR certified since 1979”) and indicated that she was just getting her teaching credential.  Everyone came in with their own story.  He asked us this question and then…nothing happened.  We never had any opportunity to learn more about each other.  He never spoke to the specific reasons why people use CPR/First Aid certification.  He never broke people into groups based on how or why they might use their new skills.  Nothing.  And any of these acts could have actually been helpful since we did a lot of partner work throughout the day.  In the very first practice, one of us had to lie on the ground and pretend to be unconscious while the other partner had to check out the situation, approach the person on the ground, and check for signs of breathing.  Checking to see if someone is breathing is an intimate act.  Your ear has to be an inch or so from someone’s face.  People don’t do this everyday.  Some folks were clearly uncomfortable.  If a Teaching Artist were teaching this class, he would have taken just a few moments to help us feel just a tiny bit more comfortable with each other before we put our ears in each other’s faces.  Perhaps we would have led a quick game.  Or perhaps, we would have built on our introductions and had us find someone who was in the course for a similar reason.  Perhaps we would have introduced ourselves to each other.  Had a 2 minute conversation.  And then he would have said, “Okay, this is your partner for the first activity…”  Small community building steps make all the difference.


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