May 20, 2011

Are you training or teaching?

I recently heard a charter school principal talk about what makes her high-performing school different from other schools, public and private. The word she used repeatedly was train. We train our students to perform community service. We train our students to be respectful. We train our students to do well on tests.

I asked, "But I thought the role of education was to teach, to give students the knowledge and ability to make wise choices of their own volition?" She responded, "How do they tell a wise choice from a poor choice if they haven't been trained to identify the difference?"

And so goes the continuing dialogue that I have with myself regarding the difference between training and teaching. Months ago, before I heard this passionate school administrator speak, I asked Quora, "How does training differ from teaching?"

The answer that was voted up came from Stacy Howe-Lott, M.Ed., Instructional Technology:
"Training is focused content to get people to perform a specific task, in a specific environment, under specific conditions to achieve a specific outcome. Teaching is content given to people in which they use it to create outcomes - expected and otherwise - in all sorts of different conditions and environments."
Using this definition, it is easy to imagine the charter school in question is training its students to perform well in school-based situations. What happens when the environment changes? We won't really know how well these students do in world situations until they are grown; but I can tell you based on the scores she shared with us, and the involvement that I see the students have in the community, they are outstanding young citizens today.

Over the last ten years, Optimist International has focused on training members. They have even gone so far as to create an elite group of Certified International Trainers. In order to become a Certified International Trainer, one must first pass through series of workshops, lead sessions at the club and district level, and then be invited to train with another at the International Convention or other setting that the group feels appropriate.

I usually don't mind such a program, but for some reason this one kind of irks me. You see, I don't believe we can train people to be leaders. I also don't believe we can train people to be entrepreneurs, but I have always believed that we can train people to be good managers. We can train people how to complete and file paperwork, when to hold a meeting, and what the steps are to complete a task.

When we are children, or apprentices, perhaps the training model works. I fear, however, that training falls very short of empowering others to lead. Training is not a succession plan.

Therefore, every organization, school and business needs a team of trainers, a team of teachers, and a team of champions. We need people to inspire us:
  • To want to be trained in the ways of our community's culture and society
  • To complete tasks that are required and still do more to help advance our cause
  • To reach out and help others succeed
  • To adapt to changing environments
  • To think for ourselves and be stewards of our cause 
  • To take our mission to the next level
  • To deliver exceptional service and outcomes
And we need a team to champions - or to use the social media vernacular - fans to promote the up-and-coming leader. An influential person has to recognize and support that the new leader is ready to take control.

I do hope that the training mission of Optimist International will evolve. It's a good start, but it is not a continuum. Training does not inspire me to ask a new member to join my club or to start a new Optimist Club in a neighboring community. Training is not the reason I attend a meeting.

I do all of the above because I feel that when I engage with others, together we can make a difference in our communities that is greater than any of us can do alone. That is a feeling, an emotion, a desire, that cannot be delivered through training.
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