C’Mon N’ Ride It (The train)(ing)

8 05 2012

Anonymous Agency is great about sending their workers for trainings. Typically we get to pick what we’re interested and everything. Meaning most of our trainings are relevant and enjoyable.

I know, right?

Of course, there are the mandatory ones that are a bit of a waste of time. First aid/CPR? No. If anything happens, I know myself well enough to understand that I would scream “911! Stop drop and roll!” and then flee, leaving the distressed individual behind. The main thing we were trained in was doing nothing and calling for help, anyway, which I honestly think could have been handled in a half day.

There was also LGBT sensitivity training, another one of those requirements from on-high. If nothing else, it produced this conversation.

Sup: “Did you take lesbian training?”
SJ: “Is that like a how-to?”
Sup: “It’s for awareness.”
SJ: “So…like spotting lesbians?”

I went. I got in a fight with my least favorite coworker who admonished my friend for dressing her son in pink. But that’s another story.

It seems that the more widely mandated the training, the worse it’s going to be. The entire agency had to attend two days of a lecture by three people from Kansas (or Kentucky…maybe Indiana. Somewhere in the middle) that was supposed to completely change the way we practice, apparently by making our work totally robotic and ineffectual. I played six simultaneous games of Words with Friends and resorted to plucking my eyebrows to stay awake. The receptionist kept demanding to know why she had to be there and who the hell was answering the phones. My supervisor kept reminding me to take my turn, because she had an awesome “q” word to play. Triple word!

The trainings that are only mandated for a few sites, or just for the Bronx, are generally somewhat better. Not as good as the ones I get to pick myself (I do like having some agency) but they’re all right. They’re typically held at the office that my boss’ boss’ boss (life is great) works at, which has a fancy coffee machine. Occasionally they spring for bagels. The trainer almost always knows what agency he or she is at, and what we do.

See, I’m not asking for all that much.

At any training, big or small, whether you’re there voluntarily or chained to a chair like Bobby Seale to meet agency requirements, there are some things that don’t change.

First, be prepared to get involved. Or at least, be asked to get involved. Every training that has ever happened ever starts off with the training informing the room that they don’t like to lecture. Hey, I don’t like to be lectured to! Sweet! They go on to tell you that this training will be experiential! Ah, so you mean we have to do stuff…I was more excited a minute ago.

Note: though the trainer tells you they don’t like to talk, they’re lying.

The trainer will talk about the significance of the day of the week, and why that means there’s no “energy” in the room. “OK guys, I know it’s Monday, but…” “I know, I know, it’s Friday, everyone wants out…” “Yeah, no one wants to be in training on Wednesday…” When is the good training day? Is it Thursday? I don’t think it’s Thursday.

You will have to introduce yourself. It doesn’t matter if there are ten people in the room, or a hundred. Seriously, it doesn’t matter. I was at a training with eighty of my nearest and dearest colleagues. We had to go around the room and give our name, position, and site where we work. Some people didn’t make it that day.

You will, at some point, have to pair up with someone near you. If it is a particularly cruel trainer, you will be told that this can’t be someone you know, or work with. If the trainer is a real jerk, you’ll have already been forced to move your seat, as you, like a normal person, chose to sit with people you work with.

This gives everyone involved awkward flashbacks to elementary school. What if no one wants to work with me? What if there’s an odd number and I have to partner with the teacher? You’ll be given a task to do, and five minutes to complete it. Two minutes in, you’ll be told that you and your partner should “switch off.” If you’re me, you’ll already be done, and realize that you never took turns. You and your partner will be sitting silently, checking the phones that are supposed to be turned off, while everyone else continues to talk excitedly. Oh well.

There are certain types of trainers. Some people just seem to be born for it. It’s amazing to be in a room with them. They’re well-informed, clear, dynamic, entertaining, you want to ask if they’re free for dinner. Some people fall into it, and are less so. They have a script and are sticking to it. “There will be time for questions at the end.” Really? No.

Some have no idea what it is we do. One woman told us of her brilliant trick of telling children that their parents would have to pay for their session if it wasn’t canceled in time, in order to ensure that they came in for counseling. She was surprised to hear that we don’t charge, and our kids already have way too much to worry about. Another trainer insisted to my coworker that our site was located in a school. She was pretty good, she almost convinced him.

I think my least favorite trainer is the one who likes to talk about him or herself. A lot. I don’t think I learned anything about play therapy, but I know the names and ages of your three kids, how many dogs you’ve had, and every agency you’ve rescued from the brink of disaster with your incredible consulting skills. That’s very helpful.

There are also types of trainees, of course.

Some people hate the fact that they’re there. They disagree with the fact that they’ve been sent, they have other things to do, or they’re just miserable people in general. Who knows? But they hate it, and they want you to know. They will try to lure you over to their side with snide comments under their breath. Resist if you can. You’re out of the office, after all, and they always give you a lunch break!

Sometimes, you get a new best friend. Someone who missed the fact that you’re awkward and trying to read a book, and wants to know more about what you do. Where is your office? That’s interesting! It’s tricky. I suggest a bathroom break right before lunch, otherwise you’ll end up waiting in line with your new friend at Chipotle when you just wanted to go to Starbucks.

If you’re very unlucky, there will be, essentially, a second trainer in the room. This person really should have been tapped to run the day’s activities, but she wasn’t, so she signed up to be trained instead. Every sentence starts with, “At my agency, we…” or “In my experience…” and of course, “Well yes, but…” I’m sorry, is it time for comments? You won’t remember anyone’s name except hers. This will not be a good thing. She will challenge the knowledgeable trainer on minor, nit-picky details, just to show how smart she is. I recommend another fake bathroom break, because that shit’s annoying.

You also might end up with someone who thought they were signing up for a day long therapy session. Someone who is just way too personal and shares too much. Oh, your daughter was diagnosed with ODD? Yes, I’m sure that was very difficult for you. And you regret sending her to live with her aunt? I can imagine you would. I hope you can get your relationship back on track. Now, about this new method of developing goals with the family…?

Sometimes we love to hate trainings, and sometimes we just hatelove them. They can be a waste of time, but I’ve also gotten some great stuff out of them, after reminding myself that other people actually know things that I don’t.

If nothing else, a boring day is sometimes a good thing around here.

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3 responses

10 05 2012
KatjaMichelle

My absolute favorite trainer ever was the one who at the beginning of each training stated clearly there would be no role playing. I would sign up for anything he was facilitating not only no role plays but also lots of snark.

10 05 2012
swgrrl78

This so hilarious as I am currently in a training for my agency today (actually interesting) and had one earlier in the week which was madated for all county employees. Take a guess on how that one went. Someone made a “joke” about Japan’s eathrquake..dear gawd. At the beginning of today’s training I was sharing with my co-worker the different types of attendees at trainings which were so similar to your list..ha! The “I am really a genuis John” Let me demonstrate now”, Uncomfortable no-boundary Nancy “My kids, husband, sister…”, and Oppositional defiance poster adult Al “I disagree, take fact with, what’s your evidence for that statement?!.”. No-boundary Nancy in particular bugs me because I can’t help but think “If I were your (friend, partner, kid) I would be far from happy that my business was now being laid out to a theater sized room of strangers”. And all presenters to some degree have to have a level of narcissism that allows them to justify qualifying as an expert with such valuable information that they should not only travel the nation sharing their amazing wisdom with others but that they should also charge alot for a small room packed with this same people. The ultimate “Me” show.

In those moments charisma goes a loooong way. Red flags for presenters for me are walking in and hearing a monotone voice from our speaker, a presenter that is an obvious people pleaser and will spend most of the lecture try to appease a group of folks that are insatiable or the presenter is currently in crisis over something and that’ll be the theme/example used throught the training no matter how non sequitur it is. Love your posts!! They’re so enjoyable to read.

17 05 2012
Sara

….. I have a sneaking suspicion we work at the same agency.

(I found you through fosterhood, and don’t worry, your secret is safe with me whoever you are. If my suspicion is even correct! Your blog is amazing and should continue going on forever.)

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