The terrible teacher Bruce Maples described in his recent article, “Three traits of trainers who are just plain useless,” was not an isolated occurrence, according to TechRepublic members. This group seems to be unfortunately large and students everywhere are suffering because of it!

Member comments in e-mails and sound offs included everything from the warning signs of a potentially poor instructor, suggestions for trainers about how to stay focused, and ways to recover some of the money and time invested in a bad class.

A field guide to troublesome trainers
Sally W. sent a funny profile of the classically unprepared trainer:

“You know the type. They enter the class late, don’t have a class list, sign-in materials, or course documentation. He/she hasn’t checked the equipment and (surprise!) half the workstations have the wrong software or there are other technical difficulties. The final tip off is usually during the first few minutes of the class when the instructor says, ‘Everyone loves my class. We are usually finished early. You can stay and do the labs if you like, but most people leave.’”

Darena describes a particularly odd situation in a tech school class with a frustrating, uninformed instructor:

“To add insult to injury, he would tell us exactly what questions would be on the test beforehand!”

From the “you know you’re in trouble when” files, Linda G. described how she and other students responded to a poor instructor in this MCSE certification training class:

“I played Solitaire, one guy stared at the wall, and another just sat there and tried to install Windows NT on his hard drive that had been formatted incorrectly in the first place.”

Patron saint of trainers?
While trainers are sometimes unprepared and unprofessional, students aren’t always on their best behavior either. Chris S. reminds us that patience is a virtue and a vital quality for trainers:

“It does take near sainthood to deal with some people. I think that is 50 percent of being able to teach anyone anything. [You need] patience to understand where you need to start from.”

Joe G. recommends this mantra for trainers:

“There is one quote that I heard a long time ago and I remind myself of this every time I teach a class, ‘The teacher hasn’t taught if the student hasn’t learned!’”

David F. says he stays focused when he’s teaching by remembering that students are customers.

“I teach a lot of desktop application and Internet courses and have learned that, though the customer is not always right, they are always the customer. Remembering that allows me to be the kind of service provider I need to be, especially when someone raises a hand to ask where the ‘any’ key is located.”

Solutions among the scary stories
Tom M. suggests that there is a link between uselessness and low pay, and offers a tax credit solution.

“The federal government could provide a $75-per-teaching-hour of tax credit for each teacher who achieves a 90 percent approval rating by students at the end of a class. This way technical colleges and trade schools can pay $12 an hour for teachers and successful teachers can capture the tax credit prize.”

A tax credit is an intriguing proposal, but Sharon H. took a quicker route to satisfaction when she turned in a poor review of the instructor of her Windows NT 4 Core Technologies class and outfoxed a sneaky instructor:

“I wrote a scathing review on the comment form. However, when I called the company the following week, they claimed that they had received no such review. They stated that only four people had turned in a review from my class. I believe he picked up the reviews, weeded out the bad ones, and turned the others in. Fortunately, a manager of the training company listened to my complaints and then called other people in the class. The instructor soon lost his job. I was allowed to repeat the class under another instructor free of charge.

“Moral of this story: If you’re unhappy with a class, don’t just put it on the review. Call the company and let them know.”

Vicpic1 has an even more direct approach that could salvage a class headed down a useless path:

“I suggest approaching the trainer at the next break with the pointed comment, ‘You know, that comment you made to Robbie seemed really harsh and out of line. I think most of the class would prefer if you didn’t (fill in the blank).’ That should be enough to get your trainer back on track!”

This solution probably should be considered on a case-by-case basis since some people can’t deal with criticism and could respond poorly.
You know they’re out there, but now at least you’ve got some ways to protect yourself against useless trainers. Once again TechRepublic members have come up with lots of real-world examples and good ideas. Did we miss something or do you want to read more? Send us a note with your best weapon against bad instruction.