One of the roles of a ProAdvisor is trainer/instructor. Sooner or later you are going to get called to ‘train’ users of the software you are supporting. There are 2 kinds of instruction/training. Many ProAdvisors are comfortable providing ‘arm-chair’ training, that is “one-on-one” or perhaps a couple of people in a ‘show-n-tell’ type environment. Sometimes we refer to this mode of instruction as ‘coaching’ rather than training or teaching.
But ultimately, unless you just have absolutely no interest, or willingness, to stand before a group of people, be that a half-dozen, 20 or 30, or 2000, you are probably going to find yourself responsible for providing training/instruction to such groups. Hopefully you won't start out with 2000 in an auditorium as your first gig.
While the old saying is “those who can’t do, teach”, I find that very untrue. In fact, if the topic of instruction is a technical subject, you clearly will not find any such evidence if the instructor is worth their weight. This is because the first real quality of an instructor is ‘knowledge of the subject matter’.
You cannot teach what you don’t know (or believe for that matter). While instructors do not need to be ‘total experts’ in their fields, they at least must possess an above average knowledge of the subject. A basic foundation of such awareness on the part of an instructor is a rationalization that they are never too skilled, or too knowledgeable, or too old to keep learning. The truth is that instructors must in fact continue to build upon their understanding of the subjects and materials they teach.
Having a sound knowledge of the subject is not enough. An instructor must have a certain ‘aura’ about them which is based upon and exudes ‘confidence’. Great instructors are confident in their abilities to teach the materials, and to do so in a manner that insures their students (no matter what age) are learning from their instruction.
Now I must admit that except for the last 14 years or so, I have primarily instructed ‘adult learners’ during my various careers involving instruction. There is a major difference in teaching adults who are attending a class, course, or seminar because they want and need the instruction, and a child or teenager who may wish they were anywhere else doing anything else than sitting in a classroom. But children, for the most part, tend to accept authority and therefore they are not measuring the ‘teachers’ confidence. On the other hand, adult learners are continually judging the instructors demonstrated confidence in order to determine if they are going to accept the topic of learning as being factual and beneficial.
I mentioned that during the last 14 years, something has changed in my life. Indeed, 14 years ago I started teaching Bible studies to youth and children. I quickly learned, after the first few years or so, that I could NOT take the same approach with them as I did with my ‘adult learners’. Keen among those modifications is ‘patience’. You simply must have much more patience with youngsters. I now realize that in some cases I need to take the same approach with some groups of adults as I do with ‘my kids’, as I call them.
Another fundamental quality of an instructor is patience, especially with students (regardless of age) who are attempting to learn. Impatience with students in most cases is a fundamental flaw in the ‘art of teaching’ on the part of an instructor. It may be easier to have patience with a hand-full of students in a small group where you are reviewing materials over several sessions, than with a large group in which you are present a topic in a very limited time frame. It’s very easy for an instructor to become impatient with a few students who keep asking questions, taking both instructor and the rest of the audience ‘off schedule’ and potentially wrecking the ability to meet the objectives of an instructional session. As such, an instructor must learn to temper their compassion and desire to help a few, in order to benefit the many. I think Mr. Spock said something similar, ‘the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”
A good instructor isn’t born. It takes training and practice, and the willingness to put into the instructional effort what you hope to get out of it, or more importantly what you hope your students will get out of it.
My good friend, Carol Oliver, of the Woodard Group is developing a curriculum to train the trainers of the future, especially the QuickBooks trainers of the future. Some of us saw a glimpse of the curriculum at Scaling New Heights this past summer, I just hope that by the time I must put down my ‘chalk’ and wipe the blackboard clean for my last time, that Carol has a new group of ProAdvisor Instructors-in-waiting ready for the next generation of students yet to come.
In Part 2 of this series we will look at some additional qualities of a good instructor.