Searching and Learning:


As Educators Must We Still Seek Learning When It Becomes Difficult?

The other day I StumbledUpon an article explaining the different laws of physics that work to keep airplanes, well, in the air and how what I thought I knew about aerodynamics was wrong. Having gone to engineering school at one time, I was intrigued.

Had you asked me what kept an airplane afloat I would have replied that air moving over the top, curved part of an airplane’s wing produced lower atmospheric pressure than the slower air moving along the flat underside of the wing, generating an upward force (lift). I could have even identified this as the Bernoulli principle (or related to it) and would have felt confident answering that in public.


Why Isn’t It Flapping?

Bernie Was Not The Answer

As it turns out, old Bernoulli is NOT a significant factor in what keeps planes aloft. In fact some of the principles in physics that come into play to get us from one airport to another (for our next Conference) are darn complicated that they hurt my calculus-impaired brain. Because of this I must now abandon my dreams of designing the next generation super-fighter and will thus, finally throw out my grade-school prototype drawings, primarily scribbled where my physics-class notes should be showing said super-fighter, piloted by me, defending New York from Godzilla and some aliens.

That being said, I’ll tell you what I DID take away from that article. I learned that it would be easier for me to go about my day thinking that Bernoulli and his principles are what keeps my plane in the air. I could have save myself some brain-pain by skipping past that article to something that was easier to digest, or even give up on reading altogether for a while.

ReadingBut I didn’t do that. I decided to open up multiple browser windows to support simultaneous Google searches to help me work through that article. As a committed emergency services educator I try to take every opportunity to learn, even when something is difficult and, worse than that, even when something goes directly against what I was previously taught. That’s tough to do and its sometimes flat-out unpleasant.

Searching for Learning

Since you’re reading this, I can already assume that you too are the “Searchin’ for Learnin’” sort and you go out of your way to gather new information, evaluate it and assimilate it to make yourself smarter and better at helping people. Sometimes this is not only difficult, it can have no immediately apparent value and, to make things even more appealing, it may even cause other people to resent that fact that you know something that they don’t know or (even worse) that they don’t believe in. I’m here just to remind you that the payoff may be delayed, but it’s definitely worth it.

As human beings we enjoy learning things, mentally check them off as “learnt” and then move on to something else. Yet as educators we have to not only work past this natural human tendency, we have to help those we educate to likewise “seek something more”.

In teaching you may have encountered individuals who oppose education and/or learnification. You may have heard comments such as, “That’s not the way we’ve been doing it for years!”, “Why learn this new procedure? They’re only going to change it back later anyway.”, And, “You’re making up new stuff to justify your job as an educator. I’m just going to keep doing the same old thing.”

Yup, its not only tough to seek the knowledge and try to cram it into your own brain; if you’re an educator or a manager, mentor or supervisor, you’ll have to sell other people on this educational process as well. Not just the information mind you, but the process of lifelong learning, even when this process is hard and brings new information goes against what is “Common Sense” (meaning “what the responder was already doing before you tried to teach something new”).

Big advances in emergency services can only come from big changes in what we know and what we do, and they can be pretty hard to accept sometimes, especially when they go against some long-held beliefs.”

“In cardiac arrest, epinephrine saves lives!”

“You can’t use the hose-stream that way, you’ll “push” the fire into the house.”

“The faster you drive, the more lives you’ll save.”

That’s not to say that everything that’s new is always right, nor that things that work in one situation will always work in others. But as educators, we must actively seek out new knowledge that validates or disproves our current understanding of how to perform our jobs. I’m not saying that it will be easy to do, or that you’ll always find people who will support your doing it. What I’m saying is that if you and I don’t do it, no matter how much of a hassle it can be, emergency services will not advance. This is the work that it takes to not only improve ourselves, but to improve the services that we work for and the systems that we work in. It’s a tough path to walk, but you aren’t walking it alone. I’m writing this to let you know that there are those of us out there fighting the good fight too. So even if you feel like you’re the only one who wants to know how the airplane REALLY flies when everyone else wants to stick with the assumption that it’s because of the magical pixie dust that unicorns fart onto the wings, you can know that we’re doing the same thing in our home service and that together, we can do our part to make things better in emergency services.



Funny thing; This same article made me think about something else as well, “Do we need to know how an airplane flies to use it?” but that’s for the next blog post.

Standy by. In the meantime, as the Brits say KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!


Here’s the article that I was talking about.

And some more articles in case you too want to wrap your brain around How Airplanes Fly: Really.

Airplanes: What you were taught was wrong!


About The Author

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Editorial Director of RescueDigest, Rom Duckworth is an internationally recognized writer, speaker, and educator. Co-founder of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine and an emergency service provider for more than twenty years in fire / rescue services, public and private emergency medical services and hospital based healthcare Rom can be found at and on Twitter @romduck

 @romduck [/author_info]


About romduck

Rom Duckworth is a dedicated emergency responder, author, and educator with more than thirty years of experience working in career and volunteer fire departments, hospital healthcare systems, and private emergency medical services. Rom is a career fire captain and paramedic EMS Coordinator for the Ridgefield (CT) Fire Department and director of the New England Center for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. Rom holds a master’s degree in public administration, is a graduate of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer program, and is the recipient of the NAEMT Presidential Award, American Red Cross Hero Award, Sepsis Alliance Sepsis Hero Award, and the EMS 10 Innovators Award. Rom is the author of "Duckworth on Education," as well as chapters in more than a dozen EMS, fire, rescue, and medical textbooks and over 100 published articles in fire and EMS magazines. A member of the NAEMT Board of Directors, as well as other national and international advocacy and advisory boards, Rom continues to work for the advancement of emergency services professions. Contact Rom via