Teachers in training

Manaswini Sridhar

In one of your issues you had given a detailed account of how to conduct workshops for teachers. Many of us who read the magazine are still teachers and not trainers. How do we conduct ourselves as participants? What are the dos and don’ts? We may be the ringmasters in the classroom but are rather confused and sometimes intimidated in workshops, where we are on the other side.

True, it can be difficult to suddenly find yourself in a different role where you need to be the “listener” or “taker” and someone else is delivering the material! To begin with, just as you want your students to be in time for class, be in time for the workshop. Present yourself at least ten minutes prior to the session so that you can soak in the atmosphere (in case it is not happening in your own school) and you can collect your thoughts before the trainer commences the session. Most trainers arrive early to set up the projectors or to go over the seating arrangements. If you catch the eye of the trainer, greet him/her confidently with a smile and then seat yourself in the front row, without reserving chairs for your friend/colleague. As teachers we insist that best friends do not sit together because they distract one another. This is true also of adults, unless we hold the reins tightly in our hands. Moreover, it is beneficial to introduce oneself to other teachers and get to know them because there will be a give-and-take of newer ideas. Many teachers say that they feel shy or nervous to talk to others of their clan. You need to try to overcome this inhibition. You may cite nervousness, but remember the trainer and the other teacher may be equally apprehensive.

Make sure to bring a notebook and a pen to the workshop. Not all workshops distribute complimentary stationery. Teachers should not be seen tearing sheets of paper from someone else’s notebook since this is what they normally reprimand their own students for!

If you are attending a workshop for teachers from different schools, interact with them during the breaks. Do not ‘stick’ to only your colleagues. Just as you encourage your students to intermingle with people other than their immediate friends, you too should induce yourself to do the same. Remember to smile, nod and look interested, just as you would want your students to respond to your teaching. Don’t yawn unabashedly or keep looking at your watch.

A well-prepared trainer comes totally ready to take you on a learning journey. Most trainers are given only a rough indication about the number of participants and the classes they teach. A veteran trainer thereby begins the program by announcing what she intends to do, adding, “If there is anything else that you would like me to do, please tell me and I will make sure that we address those issues. The workshop is for you and we need to focus on what you need to understand or learn. Do you have any suggestions?”

This is an open invitation for teachers to express what they would like to have dealt with in the workshop. This is not the time to remain politely silent. You will find that when one teacher is ‘brave’ enough to make suggestions, a few others also pitch in. This makes the trainer’s work easier and most importantly, you fully benefit from the program.

When the trainer arranges for activities to be done, don’t stay put in the same group. Move around and work with as many different groups as possible. Some teachers will help you see the issue you are dealing with in an amazingly innovative way. Get excited about the activity, but don’t let it become chaotic because the trainer can hardly reprimand adult teachers for the din they are making. When you have your own students do an activity in groups, you would still like some semblance of order, wouldn’t you? Well, the same rule applies here.

When a teacher is discussing a point or offering to read or enact a passage, listen, rather than turn to the person next to you or behind you to chat. Listening is a skill that we all need to develop for our own good. We are constantly preaching listening skills to our students.

As the trainer concludes, she always asks, “Any questions? Any doubts?” Have your doubts cleared at that point of time rather than make a beeline for an exhausted trainer at the end of the session and bombard her with questions that you could have very well asked in class. In fact, the other teachers could benefit from your questions too.

Fill up the feedback forms neatly. After all, you are a teacher! Write clearly and to the point. Don’t make vague statements such as: We could have had more activities. Specify what kind of activities you require. Ask yourself also whether your group responded positively to the activities. Maybe the lack of enthusiasm shown by your group dampened the spirits of the trainer and therefore she didn’t dwell on more activities.

Last but not least, someone from the group should take the responsibility of thanking the trainer and expressing in what way the training was beneficial. Thanking the management and the principal of the school would also be a smart move since they have provided you the opportunity of furthering your knowledge.

Conduct yourself in training the way you expect your students to conduct themselves in your class – with responsibility and interest.

The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Chennai. She can be reached at manaswinisridhar@gmail.com.