I like to deliver the same message every time I teach a class, whether it be Microsoft, CompTIA, VMware, on-premises or cloud technologies.
I have been teaching certification classes since 2006 and started attending them as a student several years before that. I know that there are good instructors and great instructors… and there are trainers who ‘phone it in.’ They read from the slides or from a script, often offering no value add to the students that they would not get from reading the book. I have always strived to not be like that. I like to teach with examples, stories, and demonstrations. In my experience, my students are able to get more out of how I have implemented (or managed or fixed) the technologies I teach in the real world than from simply reading the words on a page.
Another metric I discovered long ago for good to great is what happens after the class is over. Many instructors will disappear into the ether. I have never and will never be like that. That is why I always put my e-mail address and phone number on the board at the beginning of class… and why it stays there throughout the week. Whether it is during the class weeks but after hours, or weeks or months after the class is over, I want to be there for my students. I want to be able to help them along their journey; if a student has a question about the technologies we covered during class after the class is done, I am always happy to help. Sometimes that is by simply answering questions; oftentimes the questions I get from my students results in blog articles that will help others.
I have always loved teaching; helping my students to grow in their careers is something I have always taken pride in, so whatever I can do to help them I am going to do.
At the end of a class – at the end of every class, I say the words that are the demarcation point between ‘I am teaching’ and ‘I am no longer teaching.’ This is not a discipline thing… there is no ‘distance’ between my students and me during a class. It is simply the point when students are free to leave… or stay and chat. It means the presentation portion of my class is done. It usually also means that the students have done their lab exercises, but not always, as with most on-line learning centres, you can continue to work on your labs from home for up to a year.
When the class is a Monday-Friday class, it is the point where the weekend begins – both for the students and for me. When classes are in-person, all of us will have to fight traffic to get home; often I will have to check out of a hotel room and rush to an airport to fly home.
It is far from the end of the journey.
When a student takes my class, it is very often with the goal of getting certified in the subject, and most students (and trainers) will agree that even with the best instructor, the end of a 40-hour class is not the time to face the exam room. Going home, reviewing, studying, and practicing is the smart play for most students. Unless a teacher goes out of his way to teach to the exam, a practice frowned upon by every reputable trainer, then there is a lot of preparation that goes between the last hour of class and sitting an exam with confidence. I did not always understand that. I have taught several classes in the past where students walked out of my class and right into the exam centre next door. It always baffled me when most of them would not pass. Now I understand… unless the instructor teaches the exam, you should go home and study.
So the last two words of my class are a demarcation point between my responsibility to convey information and my students’ responsibility to take that information and truly understand it. I have often used the analogy of a football. When I hand you the ball, you can stand there looking silly, get pummeled by the defense, and end up with nothing… or you can run with the ball, score a touchdown, and be a star. The classroom hours that we spend together are me handing you the football; the studying and practice hours you put in once you have that knowledge is you running with the ball; the certification you achieve by passing the exam is the touchdown… and the better job (or promotion) you get is the adulation of the fans.
Those words I say at the end of the class are the end of the class for me… and the beginning of the journey for you. Go score the touchdown.