Classroom Stories: What Makes It All Worthwhile

A Parent's Eye-Opening Self Awareness Moment of AHA! By Robert Bacal

One of the things about conference speaking and delivering training as an external consultant is that frequently, one doesn't have the opportunity to find out how people used what we want them to learn in the classroom, AND most importantly, the results of applying what they've learned.

So, we have to get our "strokes" and feelings of being effective from comments people make during and at the end of sessions, and above all, it's the light bulb moment -- the AHA that makes it all worthwhile.

The Group Session

A while back I was working with a group for a half-day on communication issues in the workplace. I can't quite remember if it was looking at how to defuse hostile and uncivil customers, or whether it was something more tied in to team building.

In any event, in these sessions, I often talk about the SUBTLE ways people use language, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not to send a message of lack of acceptance, intolerance, coercion, or actual verbal abuse.

I also usually talk about ways to replace those kinds of verbal abuse with positive and constructive statements, particularly in the workplace.

A Parent's Revelation

After we'd completed the session, I hung around for a bit in case anyone wanted to ask questions or talk privately. It's something I usually do as a way of extending the group members' learning processes.

A professionally attired woman came up to me and introduced herself, and after doing so, said:

"I'd really like to thank you so, so much. The session was good as it applied to the workplace, but what really made it eye opening was that I realized that I was accidentally using some of the subtle verbal techniques to send the wrong messages to my kids. "

We talked for a bit. I wanted to reassure her that ALL of us get caught in using language that send subtle messages to those around us, and that it doesn't mean we are bad people -- it's the nature of how and when we use language.

I wanted to make sure that she didn't get into a cycle where she might feel she was a poor parent, or a "bad" person, when in fact she was just "normal".

What I Learned That Makes I All Worthwhile


  • A trainer, teacher or presenter cannot always anticipate the connections people will make between what is going on in a classroom and their own lives, but it's those "connections" THEY make for themselves that fuels the learning.
  • Many people won't tell you about those connections, and how they take the information from a session, and transform it to apply in other parts of their lives.
  • It's important to encourage people to make connections between one context, let's say at work, and another, for example, their personal relationships, because it strengthens what they have learned.
  • I like hearing these things; the personal AHA moments that go beyond restricted domains like the job world -- that what turns my crank is not helping companies make more money, but those rare occurrences when there's a chance of making one or more people's lives in a significant way.

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