Forest Industry Safety & Training Alliance, Inc.

September 2014

Education - \e-joo-ˈkā-shun\

It’s September and the kids have returned to school.  Parents are relieved to have some structure reinstalled in the daily grind and are no longer hearing the perpetual, “I’m bored” from kids that have had way too long of a break.  Early on, I learned that saying those two words around my dad would result in a fun-filled day of weeding the garden, sweeping the garage, cleaning out the springs for livestock, brushing fence lines and fields, pulling sprouts of grass from the driveway gravel and just about any other shop or farm chore that kept me from being bored as a youth. 

Given the busy work schedules of today’s two earner families, I remain baffled as to why our schools aren’t set up on a 3 week on, one week off, year-round schedule. At any rate, whether you’re a student advancing to the next grade, a professional evaluating our training credits, or a teacher sizing up the next class, it’s the time of year when many are settling into an atmosphere of structured education.

Wikipedia describes education in the general sense as a form of learning in which the knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of others, but may also be auto-didactic. Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. 

Hmm, so now what does auto-didactic mean?  In short, auto didactic means to be self-taught.  Autodidacticism is the act of teaching oneself about a subject in which one has had little or no formal education.  Sound familiar?  How many of you entered into professional logging without formal instruction on how to do so.  Many refer to this as “The School of Hard Knocks”.

Fortunately, the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association formed FISTA in 1991, to provide information that can help ease some of those “Hard Knocks” by offering educational opportunities.  As a matter of fact, as of September 1st, FISTA has 22 educational opportunities remaining in 2014.  Topics like Maximizing Hardwood Grade, Timber Marking, Timber Economics, Wildlife, DOT Compliance, Tax Tips and Equipment Fire Prevention and Safety will be covered throughout the State.  Of course, FISTA is also equipped to visit your crew at your location for a personalized, hands-on Chainsaw Safety course that will also satisfy your annual SFI continuing education requirement.  Contact our office for more info!

Speaking of chainsaw safety, I am amazed at the number of people I come in contact with that have turned to questionable sources, like YouTube and other social media, for autodidactic education.  The problem with this approach isn’t the resource where the information is found; it is the source, accuracy and currency of the information itself.  How does one know that the education received is accurate, current and relevant?  How does the lay person separate the good from the bad among the immense volume of information available today? 

The quality of an educational experience is directly correlated to the effectiveness of the instructor.  So, what makes a good teacher?  I recently read an article titled Qualities of an Effective Teacher written by Derrick Meador.  This quick read focuses on ten qualities that are found in a high-caliber instructor, regardless of the subject.  These ten qualities are listed below with an interpretation of how each relates to our profession within the forest products industry:

  1. An effective teacher loves to teach– by learning information for themselves and passing that knowledge to those directly managing the resource that sustains our livelihood, our family, our community, and are all so passionate about maintaining.

  2. An effective teacher demonstrates a caring attitude– by  understanding the struggles often endured by the foundational people supporting our industry and strives to convey information, as well as encouragement, to help the persevere.

  3. An effective teacher can relate to the students– by immersing themselves into the culture, absorbing current events, and understanding that their responsibility of conveying relevant information directly impacts the economic and emotional status of us all in the industry.

  4. An effective teacher is willing to think outside the box– by being creative and open-minded enough to find better ways to do their job, and others to do their job as well.

  5.  An effective teacher is an excellent communicator– by listening as well as speaking, and conveying information in a variety of ways, for a variety of learners.

  6. An effective teacher is proactive, not reactive– by preparing their students for future challenges, not just current ones.

  7. An effective teacher strives to be better– by subjecting themselves to continuing education opportunities in order to remain current, even ahead of the times.

  8. An effective teacher uses a variety of media in their lessons– to appeal to multiple generations and a variety of learning styles for better absorption of class material.

  9. An effective teacher challenges their students– by being an example of an eager learner and demonstrating how education leads to improved success, sustainability and satisfaction in their career and life in general.

  10. An effective teacher contributes back into their profession and community– A teacher or trainer that does not promote or give back to their profession and community in some way, more than likely is void of the previous nine characteristics as well. Enough said.

For those of you looking for convenient, online educational opportunities, keep in touch with the FISTA office.  A few trusted solutions are already available, while more courses are currently being developed in house!  So where are you getting your education?  See you in class!


Ben Parsons, FISTA Training Coordinator, is originally from West “By God”, Virginia as they say in that part of the Appalachian Mountains. His family’s deeply rooted philosophy of living off the land was monumental in deciding to earn a degree in Forest Management from West Virginia University.  Throughout his career, Ben has had the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of assignments.  He measured Forest Inventory and Analysis research plots in Virginia and Georgia, been involved with urban and utility forestry operations throughout the Appalachian region, procured lowland hardwood timber in the swamps of South Georgia, managed logging contracts and harvest operations in Arkansas and specialized in water quality and harvest planning as well as fighting forest fires in Virginia. As FISTA Training Coordinator, helping to meet your safety and educational needs is the number one priority here at FISTA.  For more information, contact Ben at 800-551-2656 or ben.parsons@fistausa.org