I have been in the business of corporate training for quite some time, but it was only now when it struck me like lightning: I, a training consultant, am a teacher after all.After all this time, I suddenly realized that I have been working under a synonym. Same dog, different collar? Or was this the result of a successful (and evil) plot by Human Resources whizzes to separately brand and market themselves? The bottom line is clear: I teach. It just so happens that I perform my job in training rooms instead of classrooms, and my students are referred to as participants.
Consequently, I realize that I am in effect a third-generation teacher. My paternal grandfather was a public school teacher in Piat, Cagayan (his wife, my grandmother, almost became one too, but chose instead to teach their ten children at home during their toddler years). My father has spent more than 30 years in the business of training people as well. His older sister, on the other hand, is an English professor in Cagayan.
The same is the case in my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother was also a public school teacher. My mother teaches Otolaryngology (that’s English for the study of the ear, nose, and throat) at a university. Her only sister and two brothers teach Math in Australia and the United States respectively.
My sister and I have followed our father’s footsteps. I teach communication, while my sister specializes in organizational development.
Unfortunately, my two grandparents did not live long enough for my sister and I to see them teaching. But from heaven, they must be proud to see that teaching has been running in the family for 60 years each side and counting.
Consciousness of these insights only came about after running a spoken communication program for a private company. I was assigned to train one of many batches of participants. The company gave us a clear directive: to “release” all from the paralyzing fear of communicating clearly and assertively with foreign nationals, who have recently joined the company, and are now based here. This of course, entails speaking with them in English, an ordeal now popularly described across different companies as “nosebleed moments”. Often enough, we trainers would joke about people dying due to lost blood, courtesy of the English language.
While I have already considered myself a specialist in the program, I really wasn’t sure if I was up to the job, given my already heavy training schedule plus the company’s tall order. More importantly, I had been soul-searching in the past few days. Over long drives going home, I found myself reflecting about my work and its meaning to me. While I was happy about my job and the people I worked with, I wondered restlessly if I had the real heart for teaching. Compared to my other peers who seemed to really live up to the role as great teachers, I felt I didn’t have as much fire as they did. I have seen this clearly during the seminars they conduct, and as their many hours’ talks about formulating training programs, tailor-fitted to managers, associates, this company, or that industry.
So I did what I knew best: I channeled my anxiety into positive anger to conquer my worries and buckle down to work. I prepared for the training, not stopping until I was totally prepared to meet them. I barely slept for two nights, but I was motivated to not let my students down because of my lack of heart.
The two whole days of training went very well, despite the initial struggles to get everyone speaking in English. I gave drills, even training games, to get everybody communicating. I probed for the reasons behind their fears, and worked with them to address these so-called nosebleed moments. They shared their experiences. Meanwhile, I found myself sharing not only the industry-accepted tools to improve communication, but also my own personal weapons against my previous jitters to communicate in difficult situations, like dealing with foreign clients, or facing the camera, which I did in my previous work as a reporter.
Of course, no one becomes My Fair Lady’s Eliza Doolittle overnight. But towards the end of training, the participants had become very confident. They chose to exert effort. They realized at the end of training that they already have the skills and knowledge both from their own professions and the training. All they need now is the right attitude to communicate clearly. As the training ended, I told them the familiar quote mixed with my conclusion: a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And because they chose to persevere, their journey is more than halfway.
Their body language, specifically the twinkling of their eyes said it all — they appreciated their training. As a matter of company procedure, my participants numerically graded me and gave me feedback. I was happy with their score. But what almost got me into tears was the feedback of three participants. The first said she was able to “conquer her fears.” The second says, he was “liberated”. The third shared that the training was “life-changing”.
The inspiring feedback reminded me of our public school teachers.
As a former reporter, I had covered the story of our public school teachers. I appreciate their role in society. I understand their current plight, their benefits, their sufferings. I know of the government’s helplessness in truly prioritizing education. But I had all this knowledge only from the perspective of a distant observer, a reporter covering the story.
It is only now that I am a teacher myself that I finally fully understand the real sacrifices our public school teachers. I specifically also realize how much our public school teachers are taken for granted, considering their role in shaping and changing the lives of millions of Filipinos.
I know of course, that my work and benefits as trainer are very different from what they get. Public school teachers are real heroes, and I wish to salute them even more. But all things considered, whether one is a teacher, professor, lecturer, instructor, trainer, training consultant, or management consultant, we have been called to touch the lives of our students. We cannot take teaching for granted.
I continue working with renewed inspiration because of the long tradition I have discovered. Moreover, I continue to work happy and content, knowing that my work has now changed the lives and views of at least three people. But without their knowing it, it is they who have changed me. They have given me the heart that I was looking for. They have made me realize that training or teaching is not just a job, but a true service, a vocation that one needs to fully be committed to. Thank you for your inspiration.
I am Ralph Pascual Guzman. Training and Management Consultant. Teacher.