The article was created as part of the “Skrzydła dla STOP” project carried out by the Polish NGO Trainers’ Association (STOP) financed by the NIW-CRSO as part of The Civil Society Organisations Development Programme for 2018-2030 PROO.

Me as a trainer and educator – so who?

Imagine: it’s Friday evening, post-pandemic times, and you are at a party with many people you don’t know. Suddenly you are asked:

– So what do you do for a living?
– I work as a trainer.
– Oh, wonderful! In which fitness studio?
– Ekhm…

Have you ever been in this embarrassing situation? Trying to explain that you are a trainer but not that type of trainer but this one who is like a teacher but not really a teacher because you don’t teach at school and by the way, yes, you sometimes do those funny games called energisers but this is a very serious learning process, believe me!!

Phew… it is not easy to explain to the outside world who we are: trainers, educators, persons organising life-long learning processes on so many topics… But do we really know who we are? Have you ever asked yourself:

I am a trainer and educator – so who?

Which face of a trainer will you choose?

There are many ways in which you can see your role as a trainer and educator – a guru, servant, mentor, friend… The differences might come from a different cultural or professional background, but even people from the same city, of the same origin and education, might have different ideas and expectations regarding what it means – to work as a trainer/educator.

Let’s have a look at some possible faces of a trainer!

Idol – the centre of the universe, a person who wants to be worshipped and comes to the training room to get applause and admiration.
Can you see how great I am?

Guru – unlike an idol, you don’t care so much for attention, yet you have many followers who see you as an oracle or at least as an intellectual or spiritual guide. You are never wrong. Open your eyes, here I come with my knowledge!

Friend – it is important for you not to show any superiority over your learners. You care about their life problems and when possible, you eagerly spend after-session time with them. Let’s learn together! And by the way, can I add you on Facebook?

Mentor – a trusted counsellor, you guide less experienced persons by building trust and modelling positive behaviours.
There is a lot of potential in you and I’ll support you to make the best of it!

Servant – you put the learners in the spotlight and you will do everything to satisfy their needs, even if it means for you: blood, sweat, tears, and sleepless nights spent on adjusting the training programme to the last-minute requests. I am all yours. How can I help you?

Army general – the training room is an army barrack and you are there to make the order. What counts is the mission and the content, there is no space for emotions or human weaknesses. Laughter and off-topic chat are frowned upon and the rules you set are non-negotiable!
I said you have 5 minutes for completing this exercise and I really don’t care that you are not finished! Next agenda point!

Nanny – the learners are like babies in a nursery and you are their understanding nanny, or – in other words – a hen that will always happily put all chicken under your wings! You look at your training participants with a smile: they have so many knowledge gaps but you will fix it all!
Oh, youth! How sweet and inexperienced you are! Nanny will take the best care of you!

……… (space for the description that fits you best)

As a trainer, in most of the cases (and especially if you are a freelancer), you can choose the path that fits you best, of course, understanding that every decision brings some consequences – for you and the learners.

Furthermore, your conclusion will often depend on the specific setup and the needs and expectations of your participants – some groups will appreciate a mentor but some others really look for an army general!

Still, in every case, it should be a conscious choice.

A constant reflection on our role as educators and trainers should become our routine.

My role as a trainer and educator – worksheet

The below worksheet will support you in structuring your thoughts on your role as a trainer and educator. It goes far above the “nanny or a guru” choice and tackles also your way of working, competencies and knowledge gaps, and the topic of motivation and resilience.

Before you sit down to it, choose a quiet and comfy place, turn off notifications on your phone, and make yourself a cup of tea in advance. In this way, you will minimise the risk of distractions and you will be able to focus on your thoughts.

Then, go through the below set of 12 questions, reflecting on each of them. You can write down the answers on a sheet of paper or visualise your thoughts in any other form that will feel “your right way”!

Ready? Let’s start!

  1. In which situations do I act as a trainer/educator?
  2. Who do I want to be for my participants? A guru, servant, expert, friend or…? Which role fits best in my context?
  3. What is my expertise? What knowledge do I have, what am I good at?
  4. What are my points to improve?
  5. Which topics and ways of working do I find motivating and enjoyable to work on?
  6. Which topics and ways of working don’t bring me joy and motivation?
  7. Where can I have the biggest influence/impact, achieve the best results?
  8. Which aspects are important for me in a seminar/training?
  9. What can I achieve on a personal, local and community level through my work?
  10. I still need to get more knowledge, competences and skills in….
  11. When and how will I make the first step to learn them?
  12. What do I need to stay motivated, focused and resilient?

And how was the experience? What have you learnt about yourself?

Now invite your fellow trainer to do the same exercise and then compare and discuss the results! May the constant reflection be with you!

Authors: Gośka Tur – combines her MA in sociology with almost 25 years experience of working as a trainer. Working in various educational settings across the world sensitised her to constantly challenge her perception of an educator. She likes to look for methods and approaches that make the biggest impact on her learners.
Project: Skrzydła dla STOP