What do many teachers lack? (Apart from respect, opportunities for professional development and a reasonable workload.) The answer, of course, is time. I’ve always advised teachers given time out of the classroom for training or study leave to spend it outside school if at all possible.
Why? Because too many times out of ten you could be in the middle of training or doing your own work when someone tells you an emergency has arisen. A teacher hasn’t turned up for the lesson or has been taken ill, and as you appear to be free, you can do it instead.
For that reason, when I arranged for a selection of teachers from one school to have training in order to develop their area of the school’s website, I insisted on holding the training at the training centre. Indeed, that arrangement also made sense for a different reason: it freed up the computers in the school.
For the training session, I arranged for a technician to be in the classroom with me, to help the teachers sort out any technical problems they had, or suggest a technical solution to something they wanted to do.
For example, if a teacher wanted to create a drop down menu or a nested menu (or a combination of the two), the technician would be able to show them the code they needed.
Therefore, my role was to help the teachers think about how they would like to see their web pages used, and what experience their visitors would have.
In this way, the technician and I made a great team. I’d get a teacher to the conclusion that they wanted a particular effect in order to achieve their goal, and at that point the technician would take over and help them do so.
However, it wasn’t this which made the training session (which lasted a day) so good in the delegates’ eyes. The most attractive aspect of the training day was the absence of any formal training. I did not stand at the front of the room and give them a PowerPoint presentation followed by discussions in small groups followed by a talk by some self-styled expert. What I gave them was time: several hours of uninterrupted time, or at least uninterrupted by us. We only intervened when they asked for our help or advice.
Usually, at the end of a training day, you collect in the evaluation forms and then bury your head in your hands and weep at comments like “The training was ok but the traffic was terrible, that’s why I was late.”, or “I didn’t like the sandwiches.” On this occasion though, every single person said it was the best training day they’d ever had, because they were able to work intensively on something which had been on the to-do list for weeks. No sudden cover lessons, nobody wanting to impress with their expertise. Just time, plus the availability of two different kinds of assistance throughout the day.
Based on this experience, I strongly suggest that you build in time in your conference or training event for delegates to have their own conversations and work on what they have prioritised, rather than what you deem the most important.