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Have You Had an “AHA!” Teaching Moment?

I am currently in my 44th year of teaching – 33 years in the public school systems in Oklahoma and Kansas, and 11 years at Faith Technologies as a safety director and safety trainer. During a recent presentation, I was asked about methods I would recommend to improve as a trainer. As I look back over my career path, a few key elements stand out to me.

I would like to say that I was always effective and on point as an instructor, but that is far from factual. I struggled in the beginning as I focused on teaching subject matter to students who were not always as motivated to learn as I was to teach. My “AHA!” moment occurred when I had an opportunity to visit with a teacher who was working with students who traditionally struggled with math. I realized very quickly that she wasn’t focused on teaching math skills; she was focused on teaching people.

From that time forward, I took every opportunity available to visit classes and watch great teachers and coaches as they interacted with students and student-athletes. The common theme with each of them was a passion for what they were doing. These great motivators didn’t rely solely on the evaluations from their supervisors; they asked for feedback from their students and co-workers.

At the end of each module we teach at Faith Technologies, we encourage our employees to provide honest feedback through a course evaluation. We review these closely and focus on ideas for improvement individually as well as through module development.

By reviewing and updating modules on an annual basis, we keep the information we’re teaching fresh and up to date. It also gives our facilitators an opportunity to discuss training topics in detail with other members of the review team and deepen their understanding of the module. The evaluations provide opportunities for our safety professionals to improve their personal training efforts, as well.

The key to any type of teaching is to be passionate about what we do. No matter how good our training modules are or how much we know about the topic, if we don’t connect with those in our classes, we are not as effective as we can be. The difference between teaching subject matter and teaching people is connection – whether you’re in your 4th year of teaching or your 44th.