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"Training" Does Not Equal Teaching or Learning

I hate being trained. I hate training people. I’m not good at either one. And yet I love teaching and learning, and I’m decently good at both of those. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize the value and often even the necessity of training. I just wish I didn’t have to have any part in it. Ever.

Here’s what I think of when I think of “training.”

  • Massive lists of “things you’ll need to know”
  • Boredom covered under a veneer of note-taking
  • Confused faces and no notion of whether those looks mean “I don’t get it,” or “I hope they think that this face means that I’m paying attention, because I’m not but I don’t want to be rude.”
  • Necessary evil. After all, I want to be able to do what-ever-it-is I’m being trained on.
  • Did I mention the massive lists of things to know? Simply the act of making a longer and longer list does not, in fact, mean that you’re a more thorough trainer.

I’m lucky that I’m not in a job that requires constant training of this sort, or that requires me to inflict it on other innocent people who really haven’t done anything to deserve such treatment. And yes, I can say this even though I do library instruction, and even though I used to conduct instruction sessions as if they were library training sessions, and even though there are bits and pieces of training in any given interaction with a student.

I guess that little by little, my whole approach to and concept of teaching has changed. I’ve thought a lot about the power of story, about solving one key problem rather than all the possible problems, and about the relative luxury of having a safety net for my more minimalist instruction built right into my environment. Unlike many other people, the nature of my job removes the pressure to teach “everything they’ll need to know because this is your one shot and you’d better not leave anything out or they’ll be completely lost.” Thanks in a large part to the Subversive Handout and our consultation model, students come and talk to me about specifics they need to know when they need to know it, or they can come to the reference desk, or they can (and do) email me at all hours of the day or night, or they’ll get some other little tidbit of “stuff they need to know” from another librarian in another class. All in all, I almost never feel like I have to cover all the bases anymore.

Unfortunately, this makes me resent having to participate in training (either giving or receiving) even more than I used to. Massive lists of things to know kill my soul.

Published inTeaching and Learning


  1. Cara Cara

    You make an incredibly valid point! Especially on that whole list making, note taking thing.

  2. Iris Iris

    Death to list making!

    Well no, not really. As long as the specificity of the list matches that actual need of the person using the list, I love a good list.

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