When The Trainer Learns ...

I got down from the train and saw a lady smiling at me. Though the face looked familiar, I just could not recollect where I have met her before. She could easily read my confusion. I cannot hide anything even if I want to, my expressions always reveal the things which are on my mind. She smiled again and came closer, this time I remembered seeing her at one of my workshop. She reminded me that she was part of one of the sessions held for teachers. We both had to go on the same side of the station so we started walking along and we just revived the memories of that workshop held for the teachers. I was delighted to know that they all enjoyed the session and till today they all talk about it fondly, for a trainer it's the biggest trophy ... she made my day.

After a while we parted our ways and my mind went in a flashback mode, I could remember everything so clearly. That day was magical....

I was approached by one of the rotary club presidents for conducting a stress management session for teachers, it was one of their 'Giving back to Society' activity. I was little curious to know why he chose teachers and not children for the workshop. He spoke very passionately, "mam, everybody only thinks about children but teachers go through lot of stress, they travel by train most of the times long distances in a packed local and reach school exhausted, but they are expected to smile, have energy to attend a class with not less than 60 students, mothers cannot manage one or two kids at home but they have to manage 60 energetic kids as part of their job, apart from that there are regular complains they need to attend and at home they have lot to manage..."and he went on for a very long time. Even though what he was saying was true and they surely needed a workshop on stress management my "trainer's" mind was searching for roots from where this passion must have come from? .. and soon I got the real reason-his mother was a teacher too, and his empathy came from his own experiences as a child of a mother who was a teacher and perhaps has seen her suffer through lot of emotional trauma.

My emotional chord was touched and I promised him, I will be there and make the workshop that will bring back the smile on their exhausted faces.

I promised him, but I was clueless how I am going to go about it. My usual workshops are daylong and I have enough time to get the participants acquainted with my style of training which is experiential, where I conduct games, have discussions, role plays and there is enough time to observe and reflect on the same. The batch size is 20 max .. here I had 50 teachers and only two hours of session.

So there I was - worried about how to make participants comfortable, get their problems to be poured out and also come out with probable solutions, or techniques. And I had only 2 hours to do it that too for a batch of 50 teachers.

I thought I will consult Mrunal, a senior trainer/facilitator and my friend. He suggested me to conduct the session with complete facilitation.

Mrunal, actually introduced me to the facilitation process for training. I had attended his session on parenting and a complex, difficult topic like parenting was handled through facilitation. That was the first time I experienced the facilitation process. We were 6 participants and it was truly enriching experience as we had a marketing head, a doctor, a psychologist and a business woman among the group. Mrunal had a perfect framework ready and he led the discussions, which ended in having lots of insights and I enjoyed the session. This new method of training kept lingering in my mind. My mind, which was conditioned with teacher & class room training pattern, was still not ready to accept that this can work…may be .. but not for me. I got to know more about this process over the period of time, where the facilitator uses different ways to get the group thinking over problems and come out with solutions. I started using it partly for letting participants come out with their issues, difficulties. It was then easy for me to address the participants.

I had my own apprehensions about application of this process for this particular session. I told him I do not believe that the group can come up with solutions, it happened in his parenting session because we had intellectual group, it may not happen this time. I also felt that participants come up with expectation that the trainer is going to give them gyan, if that does not happen, they may not feel that no training has been done. I also asked him what if participants don't open up at all because it is not a corporate company where training sessions keep happening and people are used to the concept, this must be one of its kind for the teachers and may be being conducted for the first time in their life what do I do if it completely goes haywire?

Mrunal is a very gentle person and must have surely smiled at my apprehension. But in a very reassuring tone, he made me realise that, whatever I am thinking is just my assumption, a trainer cannot have more wisdom than the cumulative wisdom of a group. He also added "one has to believe that only the best will come out of the process."

I wanted to trust his words but I still had some "yes..but" questions, so he suggested me to just go ahead and experience it myself for once, if at end of the process if the feedback is not positive or I have not given justice to the teachers expectations, I should suggest for one hour extension and do what I regularly do…give gyan.

It was a new journey for a trainer in me ... it was like an adventure . I was totally clueless what would happen that day in the workshop. Generally I have the whole session choreographed in my mind and know the end result and the climax ... but here though the plot was ready, dialogues were not written and climax ... oh god – was there going to be any climax at all??

My mind was anxious just the way it was before I took my first jump from the ramp in the swimming pool. I knew swimming and was somewhat assured about coming above the water level but the sight of deep water was frightening. I had seen people doing it, and I had to do it in order to know what it is all about…and secretly I knew after I come above the water level, I am going to feel exuberated. I had to do it..I wanted to do it ... I can't go back now-and I jumped.

Yes...it was almost the same...

I started with my initial introduction and went ahead with the process and what I experienced was truly magical, mesmerising.

When they all felt that this was a platform for them to share their emotional and personal experiences, they slowly started opening up, it was almost like a snowball effect, kept rubbing on participants and the energy level kept on increasing. They all wanted to know what the other person was sharing, they wanted to add, they wanted to appreciate, they wanted to make everybody feel that its ok to share your such experiences which otherwise one would not have talked about. There was an environment full of trust. There was a spirit of imagination, creativity and intellectual networking. The excitement was very high.

The experiences they shared were insightful and I was amused at wealth of wisdom each person carries because of his unique experiences of life, there was laughter, there were emotional moments, teary eyes and experiences which were hair raising.

It was mesmerising, what could be now expected from this workshop was beyond my imagination, I myself was amused at the levels at which the learnings were happening. I felt I was experiencing true power of synergy. Mrunal was right - I had to just provide the framework and the required initial motivation and the group emerged out with pearls of wisdom plenty of them.

After 3 hours of the session, nobody wanted to leave and everybody was experiencing a new high what a lovely day - full of learning and sharing for all of us.

And it was surely a day of huge realisation for me as a trainer ... I know there is still so much to be experienced and learnt ... I am all game for it.