Hey, who's in charge here?

Do you ever have times where the chaos level in class seems out of control? Here are some tips for regaining your class' attention without losing your professional cool.

You’re standing in the middle of the classroom, trying to get your trainees to follow the steps for inserting a row of copied cells into an Excel spreadsheet. You notice that one student is checking her Web-based e-mail, another person is looking at his stock portfolio, some stragglers are still on the lesson on inserting a blank row, and some people are finished and having a conversation. You feel like you’re a bystander at a mob scene.

Taking control of training classes, especially in rooms designed by insane architects who thought it would be efficient to place students with their backs to the trainer, is harder than taking control of a traditional class with eyes facing front. Not only are you talking to the back of your students’ heads, but they are, in effect, watching TV at the same time. And adults are not much different than kids when they’re watching TV. You just can’t compete for their attention.

Keep your wits about you
The first thing that has to go is the notion of highly organized time. Once students leave the central conference table or turn to face their terminals, it’s laissez-faire. It’s best to quietly circulate around the room and help students one-on-one.

Don’t bother making announcements to the full class, which will surely make you feel like a quiet voice in the wilderness. Instead, write them on the easel or whiteboard, and direct attention there a small group at a time. Or if you have a teacher’s station, flash the announcement on their monitors (if you’re sure your program won’t crash their machine).

Turning chaos down a notch
There are still many times you need to control what students do. And you’ll eventually need to get their attention back and get all of them to face you for questions and answers. Here are a few tips.
  • Turn off their monitors. That’s right. Establish a rule that when they’re finished with an assignment or when time is up, they have to turn off their screens. Perhaps you can quietly say, “I see you’ve finished. Very nice job. I’ll be turning off your monitor now.” Reach across and blank it out. One less distraction.
  • Assign the quick students to be your facilitators. Those who finish first get assigned to students at other stations to help those having trouble finishing the task.
  • Use a (paper) post-assignment. When students finish, they can take a written test to reinforce what they’ve just learned. Having the monitor off makes sense when you’re testing their recall.
  • Have an advanced assignment ready. It’s not on your syllabus, but you can take the fast learners another step or two with an assignment they can follow at their stations. They’ll be learning and busy at the same time.

With some shifts in strategy and a few tactical tips, you’ll soon feel yourself more in charge of your training class.
What do you do to stay in charge of your training class? Share your tips and feedback to this article by below. If you have any suggestions for future article topics, please send us a note .

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