… and make the most of your training
Taking the decision to invest in a teacher training program is not an easy one – perhaps it never was. Leaving your comfort zone and testing your limits in search of growth is never easy, but it takes even more courage to do so in a global environment of fear, uncertainty and huge financial insecurity. So, if you are considering this or you have already committed to it, kudos to you!
What we want to do here is to share some insights gained from our training experience, regarding how you can benefit the most during the actual training phase. Some of it may seem obvious and self-explanatory but it is easier said than done! We hope to help with the done part.
Approach this with an open mind
If you have invested wisely, then you are sailing to unchartered territories. That means you have selected a reputable course, run by professional trainers, and gauged at your actual development needs. What you are looking for is going beyond what you have known – or think you have known – so far, and extending your professional abilities, your craftmanship and your perspective on the teaching/learning process.
Do not hamper yourself by sticking to stereotypes, pre-conceived ideas, or rigid expectations. Let yourself free to absorb what the journey has to offer.
- Bring your own personality into the course, with your learning preferences and your individual needs
- Bring your professional and cultural background: as long as they are not tying you down to a set mentality, they can be invaluable.
- Start on a defensive mode: the course is not designed to question your principles or your effectiveness
Understand the trainer-trainee relationship
It is very much like your relationship with your learners. It is neither a superior-subordinate relationship nor a service provider-customer one; or at least it should not be. It is primarily a relationship targeted towards growth. Both parties have a lot invested in it and they both stand a lot to gain from it. And it is to both their interests to work together as smoothly as possible.
- Regard yourself as a willing participant on this journey which should be enjoyed at every opportunity
- Regard your tutor with the same respect and positive attitude that you expect them to regard you
- Expect your tutor to get you to question the validity of everything we do or do not do in class and think out of the box.
- See yourself in a passive role. This may lead to a passive-aggressive stance.
- Expect to be given ready-made solutions that magically fit all occasions
Be an integral part of the feedback process
Many hands-on, practical courses centre around the reflection-feedback process. This may come in stark contrast to more traditional educational theories or clash with beliefs cultivated in more traditional educational systems or cultures. Considering that our educational background, including that of the author’s, is often traditional, one may start to see why many trainees’ attitude towards the reflection-feedback process can be sceptical.
- Take an active part in feedback:
- give your own opinion
- ask questions
- compare different perspectives
- Go beyond the surface:
- search for reasons behind success or failure
- look for what can be tweaked next time
- dig for the underlying beliefs that made you take this or that decision
- Ask for feedback from your colleagues and offer them some as well. When doing the latter, be as specific as possible; vague comments or solely positive ones do not help your colleagues improve any more than they would help you.
- Celebrate your wins! Even if there were problems, there must have been several things you did right in a particular lesson: list them, paying special attention to the ones that used to be problems earlier on the course. Then pat yourself on the back!
- Regard your reflection process as separate from feedback: realising what you have just done in class is something your tutor cannot help you with – only you can.
- Just wait for your tutor to tell you how your lesson went
- Automatically reject any negative feedback: ask for reasons and then examine them carefully.
- Beat yourself up if your lesson was not perfect; there may be setbacks but just because everything was not positive about your lesson that does not mean you should give up entirely!
Take the next step
The biggest mistake you can make regarding the reflection-feedback process is to see feedback as the end of the line; as a definitive assessment of your worth and progress that defines what sort of teacher you are (going to be). Many trainees are trapped in that sphere of negativity and are unable to move on.
- See feedback as a tool: one you have purchased at great cost in terms of time, effort, and money. Use it as such.
- Base your next steps on the action points you got from your feedback. Feedback should be translated to practical, actionable steps you can follow immediately. If you feel this is not the case, please inform your tutor promptly.
- Give it time to sink in: you may need time to process the feedback you have received, leave behind any strong emotions the whole process may have generated and look at the action points coolly and objectively. This is especially useful with intensive courses, provided you have at least two days between teaching practice sessions.
- Hesitate to ask your tutor for support, especially after an unsuccessful lesson. Any professional tutor should be happy to discuss your concerns, listen to your ideas for the next lesson and generally be as helpful as possible.
- (On the tail of the previous point) Expect your tutor to plan your lessons for you! This is NOT conducive to your own development: professional tutors should know that and avoid doing it.
- Do not be afraid to check whether you have understood what the feedback included: ask for or offer specific examples from your lesson to support a specific point.
If you take one thing…
Please don’t give up the effort after repeatedly failing to meet your action points: it takes time and a lot of effort. In any case, most reputable courses allow for a couple of failures along the line. Keep trying not for your tutor or just to get the certificate; do it for yourself and your own personal satisfaction. Nothing compares to the sense of achievement you feel when you have overcome a weakness or even turned it into a strength.