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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Becoming a Training Professional

Throughout my life I have had a rich and varied set of experiences in the field of education/training and yet how I got to my current position comes down to a series of opportunities that rested on my ability to demonstrate skill beyond what any resume had the ability to reveal. Each opportunity to demonstrate these skills tapped into something within me is a strange alchemy of educator and entertainer. The VP that I report to at my company calls me an "Edutainer". I can't decide if this is exactly the moniker that I want to describe me but it'll do for now.

My very first opportunity to be in a teaching role was at church. I was asked to be the Sunday School teacher for 9-10 year old boys. A calling that is not to be taken lightly. Those boys are all grown up today and I wonder if they remember me. If they do I am sure they recall the odd manner in which I addressed the class, my strange demeanor and undoubtedly recall my completely bizarre methods. My experience with these boys was tiring but was also inspiring and enriching. At the time I didn't have any children of my own so I didn't relate well to the class. To be perfectly honest I was terrified of them. I thought they could see my inexperience and found me somewhat easy to cow into their demands - at least for a while.

In preparing my lessons I often found myself studying for long periods of time and cross referencing all of the scriptures that I would present. My initial lessons to the class were a chaotic mess. In order to correctly envision my stewardship of the class one must imagine a 19 year old holding various scriptures while trying to write on the board and attempting to interest the children in the depth of meaning so beautifully captured by the Apostle John. Simultaneous to the rich gospel message I was delivering were the hoots and laughter of boys standing on their chairs, banging on the door, attempting to pull scriptures from my hand and demanding the treats I had planned to give. This picture eventually devolved into my acquiescence wherein I would distribute the treats and enjoy the 75 seconds of peace soon followed by 20 minutes of hangman.

In short order I changed my tack with the group and took on a wholly new approach. Action would be met with action and I would get through the lessons. I insisted on a renewed reverence in the class and was committed to achieving it. With my newly adopted dictatorial style I quickly devolved into a kind of prison guard over a group of hardened felons that refused to participate. The new approach led to a form of chemical warfare from the boys who somehow seemed to be able to pass gas on demand. They also found hitting one another and throwing things (scriptures, bags, pens, etc.) at one another. I knew the approach had hit rock bottom when I ended one particular class with two of the students in a head lock that had been employed for nearly five minutes. My students not only hated my class but they hated me.

Exasperated and unable to find the right approach I gained inspiration from an unlikely source - the empty Relief Society room. I was at the church one evening for a Temple Recommend interview with the Bishop. There were a number of people in line before me so I went wandering around the church as I was wont to do. Upon entering the Relief Society room I was immediately overcome by the reverence that the room implied. The way in which it was decorated inspired me to use a completely different approach with my class.

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