The Culture of Trainers – an insider’s view* Part 2

Mar 2016
trainers with scarves 2
* Characters, institutions, places, events, incidents and Trainers are either the products of the authors’ imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual Trainers, living or dead is purely coincidental.

The two writers of this ‘insider view’ are trainers in the European youth field. We were working together some time ago and talking about our lives as trainers, about various colleagues, and our experiences of working with them. As we talked we started to realise numerous trends appearing in our discussion. Many of our colleagues are a little eccentric, maybe even a little strange at times with particular habits and rituals. Much of the time this eccentricity or strangeness is similar or the same among many of us. Through discussions between us and with other colleagues over the last months, we realised that a larger ‘we’ has developed, or perhaps become, our own culture; the culture of ‘Trainer in the European youth work field’! This is the second part of our musings... See what you think!

Trainers and Social Media

Trainers engage well with social media, particularly Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Trainers love to promote themselves on Facebook, the status of the Trainer will pronounce to the world either where they are, what they are doing or the travel arrangements they are engaged in. You can often read on a Trainers profile things like… “3 flights tomorrow to Moscow”, “Flight cancelled, stuck in Zurich, only 12 more hours to wait”, “arriving in Bucharest tomorrow, anyone for coffee?” They are a mix of ‘look at me and how amazing I am’ to ‘look at me, the victim of terrible circumstances again’. Trainers suffer a contradiction of beliefs about their Facebook profiles, if they proclaim to the world their work and travel scenarios are they promoting themselves professionally or just showing off? If they don’t do it, will people think they don’t have any work or they are not so engaged! Is my Facebook status just a social media CV?


Trainers and the Digital World

Trainers have strong feelings regarding the electronic and digital worlds, many have an intense dislike for PowerPoint and many Trainers avoid using anything digitised during training sessions – mostly because the equipment is usually guaranteed to break down or not work at the wrong moment. Trainers have little to no understanding of internet tools that can assist them in their work. (Please note: there is a small underground movement from the Baltics trying to revolutionise this aspect of Trainer culture, its influence is infiltrating the culture slowly). However, Trainers will use electronic gadgetry to play a movie or short video clip – especially if it is funny and a cartoon!


Trainers and their Daily System

The day has a very strict structure that must never be changed or challenged: sessions are 90 minutes long, there should be four in a day, there must be two breaks of 30 minutes each and one lunch break of a minimum 90 minutes preferably two hours and at the end of a long day, time must be provided for participants to reflect. Interculturalists are still trying to understand this Trainer daily system and perhaps there are perfectly valid scientific reasons for it, but you will never find Trainer questioning this particular status quo.


Trainers and Beliefs

The Trainer belief systems are complicated and contradictory. Always invent and create your own work unless you can steal it from someone else who does it better. Trainers love simulations, oh wait a minute, no, Trainers hates simulations! Trainers love a good debate and love to emphasise the minority view or promote an alternative view or raise an awkward and difficult point of view. There is no good debate online that Trainers won’t join! Depending on the interest, that might be global warming or cultural clashes or a political movement or a combination of all the above.

There are two main categories of Trainer in views on life. There are those who believe in the beauty of life, being at one with themselves and quoting Rumi at every possible moment, “I am my body my body is my tool”, dancing with the flowers, and hugging trees, etc. And there are those who think life is shit and they are cynical about everything!


Trainers and other Trainers

Each Trainer is a unique individual island and yet is also a team member. The Trainer is a team worker and the Trainer automatically loves their colleagues except when they are not in the team and then they speak about each other! The Trainer and gossip about other Trainers is like two similar things that go together really well.


Trainer and the Team Meeting

Trainers and team meetings have a special relationship. Sometimes the Trainer team do a lot of preparation before they arrive and have everything ready but still manage to have team meetings every night until 3am. Sometimes the Trainer team do little or no preparation before they arrive and nothing is ready and they have team meetings every night until 3am.

What is common in both those scenarios is that Trainer will always clearly state at the beginning of the training that they do not want to have long preparation meetings into the night. But then, it is almost as if there is some magic border of late night tiredness that the team needs to reach in order to call it a day. Even if the team has everything ready for the next day, somewhere around 9 or 10 p.m., they will be looking at their watches and, for at least one of them, there would be a strong inner voice saying: “This is not right…” “I probably did not think of everything when planning those sessions…” “the group dynamics seems quite strange…” “there is probably a much better way to do this that would bring amazing results.” After unsuccessfully ignoring this voice for some time, Trainer would mention how perhaps it would be good to go through the programme at least once more and voila: it’s 3 a.m. again and the team is still there. Tired, frustrated and not even close to making a decision.

Trainers as Participants

Trainer makes a really terrible participant for other Trainers to work with. If you hear the words, “I will be short” or “I will not repeat” from the mouth of a Trainer, it means it will not be short and you will hear everything repeated.Trainer will sit innocently in the group but inside they are critically analysing everything the other Trainer is doing and have an internal conversation that expresses how awful they think the Trainer is working and how they would do it differently and better. The Trainer who is conducting the training knows this fact. Trainers as participants are most guilty of exhibiting all the challenging behaviours they dislike in their participants because Trainer has an inbuilt attitude that says this does not apply to me because I am a Trainer.


Trainers and the Institutions

The Trainer has a love-hate relationship with the two main institutions that govern and control the work of the Trainer. There is the Council of Europe and there is the European Union. Every Trainer without fail hates nepotism and the very thought of it makes their skin crawl and goes against every value, principle, moral and ethic believed in – until someone from the Youth Partnership, Council of Europe Youth Department, an EU National Agency, or SALTO directly offers the Trainer a job, then it’s ok! The reality is that the institutions work with who they like in the moment and if a trainer is ‘in’ they are very very in! Even if the conscience is pricked a little bit, in general it is ignored. If a trainer is not ‘in’ they are in the desert and they complain about the system and see it as unfair and not equal and not transparent!


Trainers and Other People

The Trainer is seen by others as a strange creature, a question repeated at least once a year by parents and friends, “what exactly is it that you do?” Despite answering clearly every time, the concept of the work goes beyond the understanding of most ordinary human beings. Also the concept of the work is far too complex for most Trainers to be able to explain.

The Trainer is seen by many to have a glamorous life, “you are always travelling, oh I am so jealous”. What most people don’t realise is that travelling by plane once a year to go on holiday is usually a crazy adventure, whereas travelling by plane at least once per month, losing luggage at least once a year, having a flight cancelled at least three times per year and suffering all those once a year holiday makers at the security check, means that travelling by plane all the time loses that adventurous spirit!

The Trainer is at heart an introvert but in front of a group flowers and blooms into an amazing extrovert. Trainers suffer for their work but do it for the sake of a better world! As a result the Trainer often has a cult-like status among many. The Trainer is constantly performing in front of large groups of often impressionable young people, expounding knowledge and wisdom, being funny or serious, holding groups in the palm of their hand. The Trainer who ‘loves life’ gains the status of guru while the Trainer who thinks ‘life sucks’ becomes a rock star. The Trainer denies this of course but secretly enjoys the attention – the ego of Trainer is rather large – like the Sun to an asteroid!


Trainers and Formal Education (Other ‘Cultures’)

The Trainer culture is steeped in arrogance. Non-formal education rules and formal education sucks. It is with some difficulty that the Trainer can say anything good about the formal education system. Unless, of course, they have started realising that there are work possibilities in going “cross-sectorial” and then, just maybe, they start to see how many approaches are comparable…

In their core, Trainer adores diversity! Being with diverse groups of people, being surrounded and growing from different worldviews, values and beliefs… that is what Trainer lives for! That is, unless Trainer meets Teacher or Professor. Or Policy Maker. Or Businessman / woman. Then Trainer perceives this diversity as evil and unworthy. If Trainer is in a good mood, he or she will try to reason with these people and their twisted worldviews. If not, they will just run to their little support group of other Trainers, where comfort and understanding are guaranteed. Well, at least as long as the ‘enemy’ is present. Some would call this ‘superiority’. Trainer likes to think of it as protecting the only right way to changing society from all the other evil forces.

The Trainer Conclusion

The Trainer is a unique animal, often misunderstood, sadly under recognised and under-appreciated. We hope this article will help in the journey to greater recognition – though in reality no one except a Trainer will understand 90% of it, so probably not! If you are Trainer and you feel we missed out some important parts of our Culture, please contact us. And remember, one day in the future with the rise of Trainer culture, perhaps everyone will play a ukulele or wear odd socks. And no one will know why!

Please use the comments box below to show your reactions!


Image Credits: 
Vanda Kovács

Share this content