I just spent the last few days, weeks, and even months preparing to deliver a new training. I read over all the material until I am confident that I have it down pat. My office walls are plastered with posters listing key points that I need to cover, and all my terminology is written out on note cards (you know the ones - domain, dimension, indicator, and behavioral marker). I’ve run through my PowerPoint presentation countless times and made sure that I was aware of time and pacing. I’ve practiced in front of a mirror, or even some willing family member that has been so kind to listen to my delivery. When I go to bed at night, thoughts of what I will say and how it will go continue to run through my head, long after the time that I should be sleeping. I just know that the time I have spent and the dedication to this work has prepared me to be an effective facilitator.
I walk into the room the morning of my training, a bit nervous but confident in my ability to share this new knowledge with a group of eager participants. I have dedicated the time needed to adequately prepare for this day. I begin the day by going over the agenda, making introductions, and facilitating a few ice breakers. Okay, I got this. My nerves begin to settle as I ease into this role. Everyone seems to be engaged and eagerly listening to every word I have to say. I think to myself, this is going great. As I move through the morning I am covering all the content that needs to be covered, and even my pacing is pretty good.
All of a sudden, just as I am moving into a new dimension, a hand goes up. Oh yes, you know that hand, the one that you have dreaded. The one that can stop you dead in your tracks. The one that could surely disrupt the flow of your presentation. The one that, no matter how much you try, you cannot prepare for. I brace myself as I wait for the question to be asked, and then, just as my worst fear is confirmed, the participant asks a question that I don’t know the answer to. But how can this be? I spent so much time preparing. I read all my materials until I knew them like the back of my hand. How could I possibly not know the answer to this question? And now what do I do?
If this has happened to you, I can assure you, you are not alone. I can tell you that, at just about every training I have delivered, I have encountered a question that I did not know the answer to immediately. Even the most seasoned trainers experience this.
Have no fear, here are a few tips and strategies to help you approach this during a training:
I now go into my trainings with a whole new mindset. I no longer fear that dreaded hand as it goes up, but I welcome it. I know that when a participant asks a question, they are listening and engaged in the training. I know that it is an opportunity to help them better understand the material. And, with much continued practice and intentionality, I have learned not to panic (well, most of the time).
What’s the most challenging question you’ve ever heard from a participant?
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.
I have a confession to make. Recently, I used vacation time to stay home and watch Season 6 of The Walking Dead. I know, I know. How could I have let myself miss a whole season? Oh, and I feel a little bad about taking the time off from work too, but this was very nearly an emergency! I mean it was only weeks before Season 7 of the season premiere. I had to do something. Don’t judge.
While I was watching, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. I felt like I had actually walked through a herd of zombies, but couldn’t quite place why it felt so familiar. Then it hit me—I had unknowingly created zombie-like participants during at least two of my previous CLASS trainings.