I do a lot of product training and workshops related to the adoption of e-learning and subsequently come across all kinds of trainees. A trainee is, of course, someone who voluntarily or otherwise sits through several hours of tuition regarding a software product or the adoption of that product. Job requirements dictate the need to update skills and understanding and so trainees in general are compliant in the workshop environment.
Corporate trainees attend in office hours set aside for the programme and arrive quietly, dressed for
business in demure, business suitable attire and women are complete with high heels, coiffured hair and immaculate makeup. The anticipation of professional development is an unobtrusive manifestation of confidence in being able to handle new office skills. There are no outward displays of anxiety.
University academic staff attend mid-morning training, having previously arranged alternate times
or activities for their students. They arrive at the venue singly or in pairs bearing lecture related material, notepaper and pen. Most are timely but some stroll in to the room quietly, trying to appear confident in opening up the pcs in front of them all the while causing ripples of distraction around them and interrupting the flow of the training. They are neatly dressed but lack the high heels or ties of the business sector and nowhere do you see perfectly applied lipstick. These trainees multi-task, mixing training with checking emails, inputting grades and at times marking tests. Training for many is not entirely voluntary so personal investment in the topic is arbitrary. The trainer’s job is as much teaching the material as selling it’s implicit value. Academics with good reason, can be arrogant about their field and should be handled with kid gloves so as not to spread discontent or disbelief regarding the subject at hand. Good food and refreshments are essential to the success of the programme.
Teachers on the other hand – and I speak only of high school teachers – are an entirely different and special breed of people. Training takes place only if others can manage classes, or if it is after school hours. Anyone engaged in sport or extra-curricula activities just has to miss out. Professional development especially related to e-learning is treated with skepticism at best and irritation at worst but any good trainer can manage these attitudes. What is entirely unforeseen, however, is the physical impact that handling multitudes of hormonally induced, toxic teenagers has on the teachers. Hairstyles are frayed, eyes are manic, and voices are bordering on hysteria. Clothing is practical – geared for war, while overladen baskets replace handbags. Nothing about this cohort suggests peace and serenity. Any endeavour to get teachers to settle down at assigned seats is like herding chickens. Ordinary rules don’t apply to people who themselves command a battlefield, those who actively and ingeniously teach 7 hours a day with upwards of 30 teenagers in a class.
I haven’t yet cracked the secret of how to calm teachers and hold their full attention. Vodka and valium come to mind as do straight jackets, but I know that when I do, their redirected energies will release astounding, creative ideas for e-learning in the classroom and I will stand amazed at their artistry.