Sunday, September 6, 2009

How do you keep teachers engaged and present in training programs?

I have been leading many teacher team building programs this past month.

The focus has varied from enhancing the listening skills of the teachers, increased collaboration of inter and intra-discipline staff, facilitation of experience for students, leadership development for school administrators, and some amazing programs with the objectives of increasing trust and decision making between educational board members and administrators of the schools.

Many schools have been awesome to facilitate, and some have not.
As a professional facilitator and playful trainer I wonder about the individual school faculty that were not receptive and left the programs early.

What is it that makes them feel the workshops are not for them? What is distracting the teachers? and most importantly how can I improve my programs to engage those who choose to leave, either mentally or physically, from the programs.

I am focusing on teachers here because those are the programs I have been leading lately. Also I notice that when leading programs for teachers as opposed to non-academic organizations, many teachers either just sit and stare and some even just get up and leave (usually when I turn my back to grab something out of my bag).

I posted this question on my facebook page and received the following responses from some of my friends, the 2 below are the only ones that gave me a serious answer;
"do something that will not waste our time! LOL....seriously though, so many of our trainings seem like a waste of time and if you do something that we can either do w/ our students or will directly help us teach better it will be more well received by the teachers....good luck....what school are you working with?"

"I second [the 1st response]. Definitely do things that they can turn around and use with their kids. We hate programs that are not applicable to our classrooms. And keep it light and entertaining (that shouldn't be a problem for you!)"

I found both of these answers to be unsatisfying, so I responded in the following manner;

"here is a response - relevance can be seen in any and all programs. Perhaps a program that is meant to develop and enhance a teachers communication and listening skills can be seen as a waste of time. The challenge is for those involved in education to be aware that as a teacher one of your primary roles is to model continuous learning to the students. What that means is that skills, tips, techniques are their to be seized upon.
If you enter into an workshop with the mindset of this is a waste of our time then you will gain that. Much like a student who says "when are we ever going to use this" "why do I have to know biology, math, library skills etc..." Model behaviors that you wish for your students to have and you will begin to see the behaviors you wish for them to have.
Beware of a cognitive regression of "behaving like the bad learner". There is always something else to do, and like a great teacher (who is know part of my family) once told me "It will never be all done"

Now I am still searching for ideas and thoughts?

In an earlier post I felt that relevance was a solution, although I am now convinced that you cannot force relevance upon people, much in the same way that you cannot force motivation.
Relevance must come from inside the person's perceptions, their individual construct must be one that seeks and connects the dots of relevant information to the training program. If your view, your Individual Construct, is that the training is not relevant then your perception of the program from the time you walk in until the time you leave will not find relevance. No matter what I do as a trainer and whatever techniques I attempt to utilize.

So that brings me back to the question.
What and how can team building and training programs engage teachers and school staff?

The programs are not meant for the teacher in their classroom, the programs are meant to develop the teaching staff and education professionals and serve them in making themselves smarter and more effective in turn making their students smarter and more effective, making the team better.

Any advice? Thoughts? comments?

photo - david drexler

-Michael Cardus is the founder of Create-Learning-Team Building, an experiential based training and development consulting organization, as well as a blogger for TeamBuilding NY. Mike specializes in team development and leadership development consulting and training, creating team-building programs that retain talented staff members, increase production and effectiveness of your team. He lives in Buffalo, NY, and travels to you to serve your team-building and leadership training needs, wherever and whenever fits your schedule.