My Mashed Potatoes Are Cold

by Barb Freestone on May 12, 2010

Interior of a restaurant

Image courtesy of Flickr user extravigator

I waited with excited anticipation to visit a new restaurant in town. You know the one—the restaurant that everyone was talking about, but that’s a little pricey. One by one, I listened to colleagues make plans to go to dinner at the restaurant. I could actually taste the entrees in my head as they described the menu. I daydreamed about my trip to the restaurant. When would it be? What would I wear? (My husband has gotten used to the notion that dining out for me is always a great opportunity to dress up.) What would I eat?

Finally it was my turn. My husband announced that he had organized an evening with friends and made reservations at the restaurant. I knew I was in for a fine dining experience. I already knew what I was going to order. My expectations swelled as we were seated – the ambiance alone was a prelude of what was to come.

As we began the second course, the unthinkable happened. Our friend summoned the waiter and proceeded to complain about his dish. My heart sank, color drained from my face, I couldn’t breathe. How could he complain about his mashed potatoes and insist his dish be taken back to the kitchen? I was so embarrassed.

But then I realized the value he brought to this establishment. After all, he had expectations, and they were not met. He was providing an opportunity to raise the quality and standards for the restaurant. What was wrong with expressing his honest opinion?

The fact is, nothing was wrong with it, and we all should be comfortable and open with providing honest feedback when we have an experience that does not meet our expectations. I then realized that can relate to real estate education.

How many times do you leave a class disappointed? How many classes do you attend only because you need to renew your license and have no expectation of learning? In fact, how many classes do you attend with the silent hope that you will get through class without napping?

When it came time to fill out the class and instructor evaluation, you probably quickly checked off excellent or good. After all, you really weren’t there to learn or fine-tune a skill set based on previous classes you have attended during your career in real estate. What was the point?

The point is, we can only elevate real estate education if we all do our part. A real estate school should offer classes that are relevant, up-to-date and appropriate to your experience and skill level. A real estate school should hire instructors who have the necessary skills to stimulate your desire to learn, engage you during the class and teach relevant material. The instructor should have a mastery of adult learning principles and curriculum design skills.

In the book “Telling Ain’t Training,” four key principles of adult instruction are summarized as:

• Readiness: Training must clearly address learners’ needs so that they will be ready to learn.
• Experience: Training must respect and build on the life experience learners bring to the learning session.
• Autonomy: Training must invite learners to participate in shaping the direction, content and activities of the learning experience.
• Action: The connection between the training and the application of what is learned must be clear.

When was the last time you were in a class with an instructor who involved the learners in the learning process through planned activities? Used a variety of teaching methods? Taught to all participants, not just those who showed interest? Presented key points by using examples as illustrations?

When was the last time you attended a class that you knew exactly what the learning objectives of the course were? When you left the class feeling you learned something that you could apply to your business, that would enhance your skills, that would help manage your risk?

Before you attend another class, take a few minutes to identify what you want to learn and find the class that will deliver. You have an opportunity to elevate the standards of real estate education in Arizona. You have the right to demand relevant content and delivery that stimulates your interest. You have a duty to yourself to attend classes that meet your expectations and that you freely want to attend because you see the value in the class. And you have an obligation to provide honest feedback to the instructor and school whether the class falls short or exceeds your expectations.

In the coming months, I will be telling you more about AAR’s new Course Certification program, which is designed to raise the real estate education standards for real estate professionals in Arizona.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to send the dish back to the kitchen.

Comments Closed


Ed Ricketts May 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

Hi Barb,

As a real estate educator, I agree that not all course delivery by every instructor is particularly enlightening or relevant. However, my observation over the years is that most instructors are pretty good, and there is value in what they teach. I am appalled, though, by the recent trend of instructors coming out of the affiliated trades though (like mortgage brokers or home inspectors), where the course delivery is little more than a promotion of the company’s services.

In a day and age where bigger government and more regulation are so in vogue as the answer to every difficult question, I stand with a minority who advocate a market approach to these problems. Although I am not averse to reasonable guiding standards, I really do think it is the clientele, the students, who should determine whose education is worthy of attending.

When it comes to evaluating the benefits of education, real estate licensees, as a group, are bereft of care or discernment. Yet, this IS the very market who controls whether a school or instructor will ultimately persevere in education.

As reformers, I suggest that we have long been looking at the wrong end of the education process. Real estate education will adapt to the demands of the marketplace. If we want better, different, more timely, more relevant education (assuming that the education industry isn’t delivering along these lines), then the consumers (licensees) need to be more discerning and demanding.

It’s far too easy to castigate educators as the bugbear of education inadequacies. Perhaps we should help licensees change their perspective of education. When licensees become discerning enough to act on their wants and needs, education delivery will adapt. That’s the market approach.


Holly Mabery May 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

Thank you for a great reminder. As professionals in our business, it is incumbent upon us to seize the opportunities for great classes. There is no dis-respect intended in my thoughts. But as a professional I want to hear from other professionals. I want to understand from someone who has been there & done that recently. This ever evolving market is like nothing ever seen before, but it is not insurmountable.

As an attendee of a class I am looking for relevant real life information that will help me: make money, save money or stay out of trouble. Much of this learning for me comes from people who have real time experience.

I will say that I believe the “market place” is changing and that it is a a disservice for some to disregard the needs of licensees and members in this new market. The static classes of just 5 years ago don’t cut it. “Seat time” doesn’t cut it either. I appreciate the leadership that AAR continues to take to provide current, focused and timely education to members. I believe the development of the rCRMS is a perfect example. Many of the classes in the GRI program are as well.

There is always room for improvement. From class development, instructors and the students. You get what you ask for, so time to start asking for more. Our clients certainly are.

Francces Flynn Thorsen June 17, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Excellent article. You hit the nail on the head about instructor evaluations. I have spoken with people who say they check a “5″ on the evaluation form because they “like” the instructor even though there was little value in the course and the instructor is neither credible nor knowledgeable enough about a subject.

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