Putting yourself in their shoes
Last week I got a rare chance to sit in the training room as a participant. Usually - like you, I suspect - I am at the front of the room, master of the universe and in total control. But this experience was different, although it was not the first, nor undoubtedly the last time I will do this.
What a weird experience it was! Sitting in the back of the room, that is. And it was literally at the back of the room. I thought I would just relax and unwind as far away from the presenter as I could possibly get.
Hopefully, I thought I could catch up on a bit of work without anyone knowing. I rationalised that it'll look like I am taking copious notes when in fact I am wading my way through the endless list of meaningless emails on my iPad .
But the annoying part is that this trainer kept interrupting us, wanting us to get involved in some silly group activity. How inconvenient. I don't appreciate this learner-centred approach when I am trying to catch up on my workload.
The trainer opened with the usual monologue about 'ground rules' and 'collaboration' and participation' and 'application'. I've heard all this stuff before. I can tell you it doesn't sound so impressive when you are on the receiving end.
Then we were asked to introduce ourselves, all 12 of us, one-by-one. Strangely I felt apprehensive. What will I say? Everyone in the room knows that I am a presenter. I'd better say something funny, or at least witty. Inspiration may come if I wait and let others dive in first.
I found myself incessantly critiquing the trainer all day - and yes - it was a long day. I was focused on process. How did he introduce a topic? What activities did he use? How did he treat his 'subjects', particularly me? And so on. I don't think I learnt anything about the subject-matter. I was not concentrating at all and found myself off with the pixies for most of the day.
I found myself sabotaging the group work just for fun. I would take the conversation in another direction that had nothing remotely to do with the topic. I was particularly clever at not nominating to be the group spokesperson. "Gosh what beautiful handwriting you have Mary. I think you should speak on our behalf," I chortled with a smile on my face.
Morning tea. Thank God. I stuffed my face with scones, cream and jam and got involved in an animated discussion about the cricket. We were beating England for a change (Sorry I had to throw that in!). At any rate, it was the most passionate and lively discussion I had all day.
And the happy sheets! Boy did I give it to the trainer. I prided myself on being a hard marker, I reasoned. But I wasn't overly critical, after all he was a colleague. But he wasn't getting any 'fives' from me! There is always room for improvement.
Actually the trainer was pretty good. I picked up several activities that I could use in my next session.
It's a good experience sometimes to put ourselves in the shoes of the participants we work with. You can empathise and understand the feelings they have in the training room.
I think we trainers make the worst learners sometimes, I am embarrassed to say.
Or, are the feelings we have in the training room the same as everyone else?