Your instructors teach day after day, study hard, and put up with you. Added to their plates occasionally are nightmare students. Telling the resulting horror stories gives your instructors a chance to blow off steam, share experiences, and offer each other tips on handling those classroom Freddy Kruegers. Often lunch and breaks are the only times trainers can get together. The problem is, if the instructor break/lunch room is near the classrooms or a hallway where students traverse, the students themselves may hear the instructor’s negative comments. This would be bad.

“Little Shop of Horrors” talk
When your instructors talk shop, a locker-room mentality sometimes takes over. Jokes and comments about classroom experiences are bandied about, and some of those remarks may be sarcastic, mean, or rude. If a passing student hears these conversations, he or she may decide to take the issue up with YOUR manager. What should you, as training manager, do about this type of behavior and how far should you let it go?

Show them the door
If you have a break room, rule number one is to SHUT THE DOOR! Instructors are entitled to their privacy. They are not show-and-tell items, and they should be the ones to decide whether they wish to assist students during breaks, not you. If the room has no door, get one. How would you feel if you had no place to take a break? You can take a walk around your building, stretch, or take five to regroup your thoughts. Your instructors have no such luxury while they are teaching. The breaks and lunch belong to them. Get a door, close it, and leave them alone.

From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska
You may wish to compile a “Top Ten List” each week with instructors contributing the week’s worst experiences and how they handled them. This shows new instructors that even the pros get stuck now and then and provides a continually updated list on how to deal with these people.

If you can’t say anything nice…
Some managers take this angle: “Keep your mouth shut and don’t let them bother you. Just work through it.” I must disagree—and I am punishing you by asking you to hold your breath for the rest of this article. How are the other instructors going to learn? How will they vent their frustrations? I can almost guarantee that it will NOT be at your instructor meetings. If you stifle their opinions until you’re ready to deal with them, you run the risk of alienating them. You also run a bigger risk: The instructors can rally around each other, alienate YOU from the group, and talk about their nightmare students outside of work. This can also be bad.

A lunch or an after-work crowd at a bar may contain some current or former students. If they overhear your instructors speaking about their nightmare students, they may take some action. Or they may hear your instructors speaking badly of you?

The nightmare therapy session
Here is one of the best ways I have seen to educate your instructors on dealing with nightmare students. Use the Top Ten Method, collect all the items once a quarter, and then have a day where instructors get to role play as the nightmare students. Your company should provide the food and drink, with a classroom as the stage. Instructors take turns drawing scenarios out of a hat, and one instructor plays the student while another plays the trainer.

This method provides the best learning environment for nightmare students AND keeps your reputation intact for providing free food and drink. They get to learn in a relaxed and fun environment. I would even invite their spouses to join in. Spouses make the WORST possible students (trust me on this) and particularly enjoy making fun of their partners.

Bottom line
The customer comes first. Your instructors MUST attempt to deal with these students in a friendly and competent manner. Your job and your instructors will be the better for it. Now get out of my face and go teach something.

Schoun Regan, a consultant to training firms, crosses the continent conducting numerous classes for Complete Mac Seminars. Follow this link to write to Schoun .