Following The Rules for Educators

How Following The Rules For Educators Paid Off For Me

Editor’s Note: While this post is in reference to an incident that occurred at a conference presentation, the rules for educators apply to any kind of education including in-house, open-to-the-public, formal academic or informal pick-up drill. If you teach, read on…

I got in late (2 am) to present at a conference the following day, but that didn’t stop me from updating my status on Foursquare / Twitter to “Arrived Late, but ready to go”. I wanted to let my wife know that I’d landed safely after presenting 3 sessions earlier that day at another conference 750 miles away.

Tired, I settled-in and, following “The Rules for Educators”, I made SURE that my presentations for the next day were ready to go and that if, for some reason, the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and a conference rep asked me to keep everyone who had evacuated the hotel entertained for an hour with spontaneous educational presentations I would be ready to do it.

EMS World Expo - Version 2Paranoid? Obsessive? Anal-retentive? Maybe? But it’s happened to me… TWICE!**

Since my schedule said that I wasn’t to present until 4pm the next day, I decided that I’d catch up on some rest and NOT set an the alarm for the morning.



I slowly regained my mental faculties and prepared to greet the day and give the conference attendees all of the energy and enthusiasm that they deserve for emergency service topics that they and I both care about passionately. And then, at 9:51 the hotel phone rings.

uh, oh


I knew what it was immediately. We’ve all had that call at some point. Maybe it was because of a swap. Maybe you worked extra shifts and forgot that you had to come in for your regular shift too. Whatever the cause, I knew it from the type of ring the phone was making. It was saying to me “Where they heck are you?!?”

I picked it up and answered as I do, “Duckworth.” The voice of the polite young lady at the other end said “Mr. Duckworth, we’re all set up for your presentation at 10:00 am.” Check above: Time now 9:51.

I responded with the only available answer, “Excellent. I will be right down.”

Reflexes born from years of getting up late for kicked in and I was dressed in suit and tie in three minutes flat. Laptop in hand, I was in the elevator in four.

IMG_2368Once downstairs the polite young lady handed me off to the A/V people and the man who was introducing me at the podium. Several times they asked me if I would rather just cancel the session since I only had three minutes left to prep. Checking the connections to my laptop and booting up the first slide with a minute to go I thanked them for their concern, but I was ready to begin whenever they wished.

And this brings me to my point (and I do have one).

There are many tips and tricks for speakers and educators, but for me, there are a few little know RULES that are not meant to be broken.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

-Had I double checked the conference program the night before, I would have seen my updated schedule. With any type of program, educators must make themselves aware of last minute updates and changes, regardless of how busy they are or what they are doing immediately prior to delivering their class. This was the rule that I had violated and it could have caused an issue (other than a momentary panic attack) had I not followed my other rules.

Be Already Ready Already

-Even though it was late and I was exhausted, my clothes were ironed and my computer, adaptors and paperwork were laid out, ready to go right away. I make a habit of following this rule not only so that I am prepared for unexpected events, but also so that I have more time to enjoy my time before and in-between conference sessions.

Never Have Half A Presentation

-Like most educators I am always updating the style and content of my presentations. However, I’ve learned through trial and error (mostly error) that whenever I work on a presentation I must a) always save often and b) always leave the presentation ready to go BEFORE I close my laptop. I may not have time to complete all of the updates that I want all in one session, but if I want to keep from “surprising myself” with incomplete content showing up in the middle of a presentation, I have to leave the presentation in a ready state, even if it means leaving some portions of the program “hidden” until I can complete my update.

The Customer is Always Right

-I’m not sure why I didn’t have the updated schedule, but it was irrelevant if it was the conference’s fault, the internet’s or mine (we all agreed to blame the internet. “Damn you internets!”)*. The priority was not to investigate, blame or curse, the priority was to give the conference organizers and, more importantly, the emergency responders who were giving me their time in the expectation that I would give them valuable information in return. regardless of how difficult or aggravating a situation may be, an educator MUST remember what we’re all here for. Lady Gaga can be a prima-donna if she wants, but there is no room for that in emergency services.

The Show Must Go On

– This was not the time to apologize to the conference organizers or attendees. There is no good to come from explanations, excuses, or otherwise drawing attention to an issue. Sure, if we had had to cancel because of a no-show or had we been delayed so long as to significantly impact the program that the students had been promised, we would need to let them know not why we had an issue, but rather what we were going to do to resolve it or make it up to them. Either way, “The Show Must Go On” is key for educators to keep in mind for themselves as well as programs that they manage. Remember, if you’re in a seat waiting to learn and a program is delayed, the LAST thing you want is someone wasting your time with explanations and excuses. “Hey, just get on with it, or tell me what you’re going to do to fix it.” In this case, the conference organizers had to say was that they were amazed that none of the attendees would have known that there was ever an issue. This was also when I found out that the organizers had thought that this might be my first-ever presentation at a large conference. Luckily for everyone, this wasn’t even my first presentation at a large conference IN THE LAST 24 HOURS!

So everything turned out ok and I’m on my way back for another shift at the FD. There will be calls and cleaning and maintenance and, yes, more education to do but I can assure you that whatever I’m teaching next, I will be, without a doubt, following all the rules.

*As it turned out, I had made preliminary notes on when the conference had wanted me to present and, because of my late check-in, was unable to get updated since the conference registration was closed at 2am (slackers).

 For more on educator’s lessons check out RescueDigest Education.

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