Guy Venner is also known as the First Aid Guy (www.firstaidguy.co.uk). He teaches First Aid at Work, Emergency First Aid at Work, 12-hour Paediatric First Aid as well as refresher sessions to a wide variety of students around London and the northern Home Counties.
My very first milestone on the way to becoming a first aid instructor was passing my scuba diving instructor exam in Thailand 12 years ago. It was a very intense two-day affair in searing tropical heat but if you want to be a dive instructor you also have to pass a first aid instructor module. Passing that exam changed my life – it gave me the platform to start my own business.
How did I celebrate? I think I just had a couple of drinks and then went to bed early to get some sleep before the next day of diving.
Since then I’ve gone from teaching a one day course to a more comprehensive three day course. There’ll be another milestone soon too – paramedic training – so there’s even more to look forward to.
There have been a few! Most recently I put a lot of time and effort into extra training in order to freelance for an agency that needed a new instructor as one of theirs was moving away. I got the job ahead of lots of other instructors and received some excellent feedback from all of my students. But then the old instructor moved back into the area and suddenly the work stopped. I really felt the loss – I had planned to use the extra money to market my own business.
But, rather than focus on that loss, I think about all the positive comments from my students. That gives me the confidence boost I need to get back on with it.
Yes! Jacking it all in to become a dive instructor and start the first aid process was a huge leap of faith. I didn’t realise I’d be learning quite so much and that my new-found skills would stand me in good stead in business and teaching back in the UK, as well as on a more personal level.
Previously I had always worked for other people and specialised in languages. Setting up my own business as a first aid instructor couldn’t have been more different. Even in smaller companies you’ll have different departments or people specialising in sales, marketing, purchasing etc. Now that’s all me.
It’s pretty good but I must say up front that I don’t have children. If I’m not extremely busy teaching, I’m running the business or taking full advantage of some downtime. After running a three day intensive course, you do need to recharge your batteries.
I’m currently in a situation where I work a lot of evenings and weekends so I don’t get regular days off. That said, I still manage to play water polo on Sunday evenings and I’ll often take my mountain bike out for a ride. And if I could just afford that small yacht…
I’ve found inspiration from two places. Firstly, from the people who have taught me over the years. Last October, through my work, I caught up with my very first swimming coach after thirty years. He’s as inspirational now as he was back then and it was a joy to watch him teach.
When I’m preparing new exercises for instructing, I remember my English as a Foreign Language teachers at Leeds Metropolitan University. There I was taught student-centred learning where students learn by doing things themselves – so this means encouraging them to work in groups or pairs on an exercise. Then it’s my job to fill in the gaps in knowledge.
Secondly, I am inspired by the very people I teach. It’s great to see their faces at the beginning of a course. Their expressions might say: ‘I hope he doesn’t make me look too silly today’ or ‘I’m so nervous’ but within minutes they’re relaxing and contributing fully to the class. By the end of the day, you can see a newly-found confidence written all over their faces. It gives me great satisfaction and I know that of that bunch of students one or more will go on to help people or possibly even save a life with the skills they have learnt.