For at least the last ten years, I have had the pleasure of hosting adult education: HVAC trade specific classes across multiple areas of the industry. Without fail, some aspect of the five rules I have created below are impacted. The most interesting part is that the offender typically is not the one affected by their offense, which often derails the students around them.
1. The Rule of Inverse Direction
This happens at almost any training, in any location. My recommendation and rule that I have lived by since my time in the Marine Corps: If you are not 15 minutes early, then you are late. Here is the way to works:
The attendees that live the furthest away are by far the earliest to arrive for the class.
I believe that since they live a considerable distance, they plan for the bad weather, traffic, or anomalies that I have not thought of.
The students that live or work the closest are usually the last to arrive, often late.
2. This is not a Competition
I am sure I have taught subjects to experts much smarter than I am on that exact topic. Here is the unique situation: you/your company paid for you to be there to listen to me! In fact, I have been on that side of the desk, many times, and thought to myself: ‘I could explain this in a much more memorable way.’ What did I do? I kept quiet, respectful of the Instructor and the other attendees in class, and talked with them afterwards (only if they were open to some constructive conversation). If the statement was just wrong or egregious, I don’t call the instructor out; instead ask a question in a way that it gives the person a chance to correct the misinformation.
The class is not a competition, not the time to question every stat or statement, in a manner that makes the student feel like ’they won’. I have offered people like this the chance to leave if they would prefer, instead of the negativity that harms the rest of the student’s experience.
3. Age does not Equate to Experience
This has come up much less often recently, but there was a time that I was often the youngest person in the room, as the Instructor! Typically, the ‘Old-Timer’ would sit in the back with their arms crossed, looking skeptical and pounding coffee. This would be short lived though, as I often provide value early in my presentations.
I used to struggle with this as the Instructor as well, that my age does not equate to my unique experience. This limiting belief only lasted about a month into my experience as I started quickly winning over the most experienced people in the room. As the teacher, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself that the attendee paid (whether with money or just their time) to see you - not the other way around!
4. 'There was this one time, at Band Camp’
There is nothing more annoying to the other classmates than the constant barrage of job specific/unique questions that turns the class into a tailspin. Even if the topic is relevant, keep these questions to class breaks, or after the class is completed. Unless the class is running very late, which could actually happen from these types of questions, I do not know any adult educators that do not want to help, and even learn about some unique situation that they could speak to in future classes.
5. Identify the Best Take-Away
Look for the best take-away in each class you are attending. If you can have at least one, or two take-aways, the time on that side of the desk was definitely worth it! The next part is completely up to the student: TAKE ACTION! I see this all of the time: Students coming back, year-after-year, to learn the same material because they never implemented what they learned following the class. If you don’t want to forget the material, use it immediately! If you don’t have a chance to use it right away, consider teaching that nugget to another co-worker that couldn’t make the class to help reinforce the learning.
If you follow the above rules, I have no doubt you will make the best of your time in a positive learning environment. Have you violated any of them? Was it in my class? I would love to hear the fallout from someone’s experience with a violator...