I had one of those nightmare events for a trainer this past week, I lost my voice. Thanks to the Massachusetts pollen, my allergies kicked in and my voice went. By the end of the first day of a four day event I could barely squeak out the last few words. The morning of day two was slightly better, but by noon it was almost gone again. For those familiar with a Mandt four day event, day one is almost all talking, but days three and four the trainer not only needs to talk, they need to be able to direct student action through all of our physical skills. This usually involves having a voice that can carry in a room and get attention. Clearly, I did not have that this week.
Thinking about positive behavior supports, I spent time in the evenings trying to figure out what would be the most effective, yet positive approach to get through the week. I was working with an excellent group of students and I explained the situation and asked for their help and consideration through the process. When I needed to say something that I wanted everyone to hear, I raised my hand. Initially one or two students would yell for everyone to be quiet. After this happened a few times, the need for a student to yell decreased. As I would raise my hand the volume level of the room automatically dropped. They were respecting me as much as I was respecting them. There were times that I allowed the room to be noisy with people laughing and joking. We all need to feel comfortable in our space. When it was time to move on, I raised my hand and we were back to work. There were a few times the class needed a bit more structure to get through a skill and I knew my voice was not going to carry. I had two students that I could whisper directions to and they would convey them to the class.
The excellent group of students also displayed the effectiveness of positive behavior supports with the work through the week. At the beginning of the week about half of my class of 22 thought our material would not work in their workplace. Even with this thought we were able to talk about their questions with dignity and respect. As the week progressed the questions about the effectiveness of our materials faded. By the end of the week, three students admitted they still had doubts. Even though I was not able to win everyone over, those three still felt safe enough to admit to their doubts. I thanked them for their honesty and we discussed the source of their doubts. If I had forgotten my positive behavior supports approach I may have reacted in a negative way to people having doubts. Instead, I invited them to express their doubts so we could address them. They seemed appreciative of this interaction. I would like to think that all of us in the training this week were able to walk away with a positive attitude and new knowledge.
Special shout out to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health crew I worked with in Westboro(ugh) this past week!
Dr.Dale Shannon – Director Instructional Design