What Not to Do When Teaching: Part One

Author: Elisa Sellars

Arc Flash & Electrical Safety Learning Center / Electrical Safety Training / What Not to Do When Teaching: Part One


Train the Trainer

On our journey to becoming exceptional trainers, it is good to occasionally review important points that may have been forgotten over time. Here are some considerations worth repeating:

Show up Late

Being late for your class shows unprofessionalism. Students expect to start on time, and some companies hold their employees to strict time schedules. Tardiness reflects poorly on you as an instructor and the company you are representing.

One instructor I know makes sure he’s on site 45 minutes to an hour before class time. Sound excessive? In some instances, that extra buffer of time has saved him from embarrassment. He’s been caught in traffic snags, been given bad directions by the GPS, had unexpected security delays at the gate, discovered equipment unavailable in the classroom or the room not even set up for class, realized books for class were missing and had to be hunted down, and even been given the incorrect starting time for the class. I’m sure you have your own unique experiences that frustrated your well-laid out plans. The good news is that most of the time things go pretty smoothly. But you might want to consider giving yourself extra time – just in case Murphy shows up.

Be Unprepared

Hardly anything else is as uncomfortable as watching someone who is supposed to be in charge flounder in front of a group. Don’t let that person be you! What must you do to be prepared?

Double Check Your Time and Place of Class

  • If you’re teaching at a different site, it would be a good idea to communicate with the person in charge at that location a few days before class to make sure everything is still good to go.
  • Have all necessary equipment – While you’re double-checking your schedule, make sure the training room will have all the equipment you will need to teach: projector, speaker, laptop (some locations do not allow outside laptops to be connected to their network), all appropriate power cords, extensions cords, white board, etc.
  • Rehearse your presentation – Test the videos to make sure they work. Go over the slides you feel are your weaker areas. Ask someone you trust to give you feedback on your presentation.
  • Anticipate questions and be ready with some answers. Remember, if you are asked a question you cannot answer in class, it is OK to find out the answer later and get back with that student.
  • Make sure you have all the materials you need – Documentation is important, so make sure you have copies of sign-in sheets and quizzes. Then gather other items like handouts, markers for the board, clicker, mouse, etc.

Nervousness was a big problem for me in my first years of teaching. I still get nervous when I teach a new class. Preparation has always been a key weapon in that battle against nervousness. If I feel ready for the day, I am more confident being in the front of the classroom, and that confidence emanates to the audience.

This is by no means a complete list. It is meant to just help you get started in your own class preparation.

Speak in Monotone or in a Boring Manner

Do your best to be animated while teaching. Some people seem to be naturally engaging in front of a group. I am not one of them! I focus on a task and just want to get the job done. My mannerisms and voice reflect that focus, and people often interpret my communication as angry or unpleasant. So, I’ve learned over time to do some things that will put others more at ease. I smile big and I speak with what I think is exaggerated inflection. By exaggerated inflection, I simply mean speaking with excitement. I don’t yell, but I do speak louder than usual. I do emphasize certain words to make my point clear. What I think is exaggerated speech actually sounds normal to an audience. And I say it with a smile. Just by working on those two things, I’ve noticed people respond more positively to me, whether in a classroom or out in public.

In case you’re in the same boat I’m in, I will affirm that this has taken time for me to learn. And I am not perfect – sometimes I do fall back on old habits. But the important take-away is that I did make the change. Whatever mannerisms you personally need to improve, remain positive that you can do it. And then go do it.

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