Limit your off-the-clock training time

How long should you stay after class to answer questions? Here's a tip to help you avoid training on your time.

If you’re like me, you like to do as much as possible to help your students succeed at learning. But “doing as much as possible” doesn’t mean you have to show up early and stay after class to answer questions.

The dilemma: You give too much
I taught adult education computer classes for the first time in a vocational school. The courses ran seven weeks, and the class met one night a week for three hours—7:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.

Like most new instructors, I tried to cram as much information as possible into the time available. I wanted my students to get their money’s worth, so I kept them busy right up until the last scheduled minute of class.

The problem was what happened at 10:01. Most of the students bolted out of there, but others hung around to ask questions and shoot the technical breeze. I frequently didn’t get to leave until 10:30 or so. After working all day and teaching all night, that extra 30 minutes of informal (off-the-clock) training was getting old.

The solution: Schedule time for questions before and during class
I didn’t want to rush to the parking lot as soon as class was over and leave my students hanging, so I decided to try a different approach. First, I came right out and said, “I love hanging around with you guys after class, but I need to get home sooner.”

Then I announced that I would make myself available for miscellaneous questions 15 minutes before class started. In addition, I announced that we would have a formal question-and-answer period the last 15 minutes of the class. I told my students that if they didn’t want to stick around for the questions and answers, they could leave early. They LOVED that! There’s something about getting to leave anything a few minutes early that’s uplifting.

So my “regulars” showed up early and yapped my ear off before class. And while some of the folks bolted at 9:45, most of them stuck around for the question-and-answer period that was built into the end of the session. By 10:01 we were all headed home.

Take your break between classes
Full-time trainers know the value of taking a break between classes. No matter how motivated and energetic you are as an instructor, you’re only human. If you teach back-to-back classes all day and you spend the time between classes talking to students, you’re going to burn out. Do yourself and your students a favor—take some time to decompress between classes.

If your students try to keep you after class, politely say, “I’d love to talk some more, but I really need to get ready for the next class.” Ask the students to write down their questions and bring them in to the next class.
Have you found yourself doing a lot of training off the clock? If you’d like to comment on this article or share your own technique for managing your time, please post a comment below or send me a note .

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