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What Makes a Good Trainer?

No matter what subject matter you teach in IT, the best trainers have the following in common:

  • They are comfortable teaching adults. A sound prerequisite for all technical trainers is a minimum of one year's experience teaching adults. You have to know what the adult population is looking for in education. You need to feel comfortable explaining complex concepts using understandable language. You cannot treat adults like children. You cannot treat adult professionals like adolescent amateurs.

  • They have a minimum of one year of hands-on experience in the field that they want to teach. You have to know the practical idiosyncrasies of the technology that you are presenting. This takes experience, practice, and time.

  • They have a desire to share with others what they know. Do you want to keep what you know to yourself? You must be open and complete in your presentation. A good trainer defies the old trade standard: "Don't let the other person know what you know or s/he will know as much as you do and eventually take your job." A good trainer openly shares his/her knowledge and skills.

  • They have an ability to communicate at the level of the audience. When a student does not understand what an instructor is saying, the student is not in an effective learning environment. Communication is done verbally and nonverbally. A good trainer is not a certified book reader, but a person who can communicate concepts clearly and understandably to the students in his/her class. I know so many trainers (and have sat in their classes) who talk so far over the students' heads that students are asleep by the end of the first hour of the first day of a class.

  • They have an understanding of what they know and what they do not know. A trainer must be honest with him/herself and with the students. When asked a question, it is OK to say, "I don't know, but I will do some research and get back to you with an answer." No one knows everything. We might think we do, but we don't.

  • They have respect for the students, no matter what their background, and for themselves as professional trainers and people. Without this, the classroom environment is a barren wasteland. There must be a respect for all students, no matter their age, gender, race, or background. Conversely, the instructor must establish an atmosphere of mutual respect in which students will respect him/her as well.

  • They have the ability to make the learning experience fun. No one likes to go to a funeral, and that is so true for the classroom. The best teachers have the best sense of humor and convey the toughest material in a light-hearted environment.

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