A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary ~ Thomas Carruthers

Now if I were to follow this line of reasoning, I’d be out of a job. Maybe being a school-teacher, or a lecturer at a college for instance would put me 100% behind this one. To be fair, the idea that you can help give someone all the tools they need to go out into the world, to learn and think for themselves, is amazingly inspirational. I remember the phrase uttered by the teacher in Frank McCourt’s ‘Angela’s Ashes’ – “Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is a house of treasure…”. I can’t help but think, although I’ll be damned if I ever work with animals or children, how exhilarating it must be to be a shelf-stacker for all these newly formed minds. Having said that, I’m not sure that the current curriculum allows for as much variety as I would probably want to include…

In my job, at least, I am not bothered by such soul-searching decisions. When you’re training a varied group of school-leavers, twenty-something’s and not quite retire-d’s on how to create an invoice for a negative-coefficient meter, it’s pretty straightforward. However there is still a challenge in there somewhere. Is it possible to still work towards the principle of putting yourself out of the picture? After all, when you’re purely an in-house trainer then you can be reassured that some of those school-leavers will still behave as though they’re actually in school, and that some of those nearly retired ones will actually retire. In come the next wave of fresh-faces recruits, all needing your help and support.

So, what can be done to stop the inevitable click-here-click-there monotony that always brings the same results (i.e. another robot programmed to do the same thing as everyone else without ever questioning why)? Well, there’s the answer in my cynical description…questions. It is all to easy to stick to asking questions to test understanding, or to encourage questions with the same motive in mind. Questions make a trainer’s life a whole lot easier than that, and gets people thinking for themselves. Getting them to tell you about what you’re going to tell them already is an obvious one. As long as you have some idea of their background knowledge, it is easy to ask them questions which will get them thinking along your wavelength and give them confidence to then work things out for themselves.

For example, if I were beginning with a brand new induction, introducing the electricity industry, I can start by asking questions about what the group already knows about electricity. They might start by talking about how stupidly high their bills are. I can ask them why they think that is. I might ask them how they know what their electricity costs are, or why their bills get estimated. Along the way I can plant key pieces of information about the industry and our company in general, and it begins to feel more like a chat than a presentation. I don’t have to do all the talking, and the group can start to piece the puzzle together for themselves, giving them a head-start when it comes to understanding the more complicated aspects of the job.

Giving an individual or a group the confidence that they have all the resources they need to do the job seems like the first step towards making myself unnecessary. Until then, I have to reassure them over and over again that I’m really not that smart, and that all the information I can regurgitate about electricity comes from several years experience and the fact that I have been repeating it to groups just like them, month in, month out. One day I’ll just tell them how much of the time I’m winging it! 🙂

By amytuffin

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