Day 5 of Train the Trainer for Mercy Corps in Amman
Today was the fifth day of Designing and Delivering Dynamic Learning for Mercy Corps in Amman.
I had the breakfast I have had every day: fresh pineapple, kiwi, orange, grapefruit, strawberry and banana, with almonds and apricots. Just delicious! And frequently the orange juice is fresh squeezed.
I realized today as I sat where I have always sat, facing out the window on small shrubs, palm trees and profuse geranium plants, that I have never seen a bird there at any time. When I mentioned that to the hostess (who is from Romania via Italy) she agreed- no birds, no bird song. Strange.
When I got to the training room, it was open but the “tea” items: pastries of every kind, “American” coffee and hot water for tea, that have been there by 8:30 a.m. every day were nowhere in sight. Nor could I find any manager to turn on the LCD projector. Then I realized that this was Friday and that many men spend several hours praying in the mosque.
Everything finally arrived, but too late for some of the sleepy coffee drinkers.
We began with a game led by Morad, who looks like a big cuddly bear, is very bright, continually questioning and much larger than life. He split the group in half and one half was blindfolded. That was interesting. We didn’t have any cloth, so Dia cut up paper lengthwise, taped them together, and then I made a triangle to let their noses poke through. We then taped them to people, using an index card between both sides of the “mask” so we didn’t tape anyone’s hair. The women who wore headscarves didn’t mind having the masks taped to their scarves.
Morad had set up a virtual obstacle course in the lounge by moving armchairs at different angles. The blindfolded team had one leader who could see to direct them to get through the obstacle course. The other team was instructed to keep the blindfolded team from getting to their goal (arm chairs and sofas in another room). The catch was that the obstructing team could not touch or stand in the other team’s way.
I wondered how they would manage and then I discovered their plan: Making as much noise as possible, drumming on furniture, yelling, snapping their fingers, singing, etc. This made it almost impossible for the blindfolded folks (9 of them) to follow their leader’s voice. And some of the obstructing team mimicked the leader’s voice and led the unsuspecting blindfolded person in the wrong direction. They actually got Nour to sit down on a chair and Dia to sit down on the floor, far from their ending place.
When the leader had managed to somehow get all but these two to the final goal, she tried to lead Nour. Unfortunately, everyone on the obstructing team gathered close to him shouting and making as much noise as possible. Nour finally completely lost it, striking out with his arms and legs to try to make them move away. It was funny to watch at the time, but later his stress manifested in a rather violent way.
The teams were switched, Morad moved the armchair obstacles (a good thing, because I had watched Nadia pacing off how to get to the end goal!) and off they went. However, Amjad was wise to the problem of the noise, so he arranged to lead only two of his team at a time and was very effective, despite all of the yelling. This is when Nour
starting shoving people, bumping into them and breaking all of the rules with his erratic and violent behavior. Even Morad, who tried to haul him away several times, was unsuccessful.
Then, just before Amjad got his last pair of teammates to the goal, a manager came over to us to tell us there was a conference next door. A different manager had told me there would not be any conference to worry about- and Morad had also checked and received the same misinformation. So we tried to get the obstructing team to yell softly…
It was a great exercise concerning teamwork, trust and communication. I think my ears are still ringing!
After lunch, Monther led the group in another game called handcuffs! He lined everyone up in a parallel line, paired the folks facing each other and handed each a piece of cord. One line was told to use slipknots to create handcuffs for themselves and place them on both of their wrists. The other line was told to create the handcuffs but only place them on one wrist. Monther then looped the loose cord over the other person’s handcuff and finished handcuffing the person who had only had one hand in a cuff.
Their task was to separate their handcuffs without taking them off. It was hysterical to watch the problem-solving going on. People would duck under each other, only to find that the cuff cords still stayed crossed. One pair (Amjad and Dia) figured out that if they turned away from each other, the cord came uncrossed but they were still handcuffed to each other.
One pair, I think Heba and Islam, got so tangled up that the cord was tight around Heba’s arms and I was concerned that she might not be able to move! However, eventually they figured out how to separate themselves (I think).
Then Monther demonstrated that, by looping one of one person’s handcuffs under one of the other person’s handcuffs, it was possible to disconnect the cords while keeping the handcuffs on. I imagine that this explanation doesn’t give you a good picture of the solution, but it was very simple and elegant.
It was a great team building and problem solving game.
The content for today included a role-play: the package tour case. This involved 6 travel agents who were supposed to decide the order, length of days and feature to be highlighted on a travel brochure to all 6 countries. Each of the players had a specific role with information about the country and any special secrets or concerns.
Two groups (predominated by females, by the way) decided to collaborate rather than compete and create a tour that would be nicest for the tourists- instead of jockeying for longer stays during the beginning and ending of the tour when they were told that tourists tend to do most of their buying. They also created lovely colorful brochures on flip chart paper, with pictures of the highlighted features.
The third group, predominated by the men, decided to use tricks, lies and attacks, plus secret agreements and alliances. This involved a lot of posturing and yelling, so much so that the two women just retreated (in good fun).
The other major activity was a team leadership hands on activity involving the creation of a Tinker Toy merry go round. The teams were impeded by Voices of Reality, who would make a team member leave, or take away critical pieces, or impose obstructions (intended to represent the typical types of interruptions that teams face (lack of staff, lack of resources, laws and regulations, etc.) Interestingly, three women chose to play that role.
Then the fun began, because Morad started chasing Nour (a female- yes we had a female and a male Nour), around the table and the room because she took some critical pieces and wouldn’t give them back. This went on for a while until he cornered her near the door, grabbed the pieces and shoved her out the door. He then leaned against the door to keep her from getting back in. Around that time, Mohammad (another team leader) decided that he had had enough with the Voice of Reality for his team (Ahlam) and strong-armed her out the door. Morad pushed Mohammad out as well and when I pointed this out, Morad said that he didn’t care about the other team!
I finally got him to let everyone back in, only to discover that Amjad had taken the phone from his team’s Voice of Reality (Aa’la) and was threatening to drop it into a glass of water. To say that these guys took their merry go round making task seriously is an understatement! He was teasing, of course, but he wouldn’t give her phone back until I promised that the Voices of Reality would lay back and stop interfering now.
It was fascinating that the group that finished first (with two engineers) made the merry go round exactly to specs- while the other two groups make merry go rounds that revolved but looked very different from each other. They had a blast.
We also discussed the use of metaphors in accelerated learning. Then I had each group select a topic and identify a metaphor. I had expected that they would just tell me what the metaphor was but no- they liked drawing pictures. For problem solving, they chose the metaphor of a diseased tree. Ahlam did a lovely job drawing the tree with good and rotten apples, the roots with worms! Talk about getting to the root cause. (I know, that’s a bad pun).
For communication skills, they drew a man (with beard and head covering) and a woman playing ping-pong. A great metaphor for the sender, receiver and message.
The third group drew stairs, I think for program management.
Two issues consumed a great deal of time. One was the need for all of the men to leave to go to pray for 45 minutes. During that time, Nadia asked what learning activities could be used to teach neural plasticity. We suggested the game we played yesterday (to try to draw shapes); to ask what the participants can do now that they couldn’t do before; to have them read something written backwards or without vowels; and to have them draw themselves as an animal, vehicle or food. The drawing itself wasn’t important, but the characteristics associated with the image (a fast car or slow bus, stale toast or an ice cream sundae, etc.) were. I had them do this activity and it was very revealing.
The other issue was how to split up the group for tomorrow’s facilitation practice. We had originally planned that we would have 3 rooms, for 7 in a room. The folks with me would facilitate their self-designed learning activity in English. The participants in the other two rooms were free to facilitate their activities in Arabic.
Today, we asked who wanted to be in my room- and everyone raised their hands! Since I couldn’t possibly videotape 18 people (we found out we would be losing a few to work responsibilities) in the time available, I suggested that I could review the activities facilitated in English in the other room by watching their videos and sending them my feedback. I thought that satisfied them, but then it was asked if they could just go to two rooms, with 9 people videotaped in each.
I spent the first part of the lunch break trying to figure it out. I offered them two alternatives: one where they would have 45 minutes to prepare in class before the facilitation practice began, but they would only have a half hour lunch. The other gave them only about 20 minutes of in class preparation, but they could have the entire hour for lunch.
Jamila suggested that we skip lunch entirely because, as Nadia reiterated, everyone would be so nervous they wouldn’t be able to eat. Both Zaid and I thought that a half hour lunch shouldn’t be such a hardship and decided in favor of lunch.
So tomorrow everyone is on notice to get to the classroom by or before 9, so we can play a Jeopardy comprehension-checking game and they will have enough time to prepare their flip charts, etc.
I asked Zaid about transportation to the airport tomorrow after the session. He hadn’t realized that I was flying out tomorrow. They had apparently planned for everyone to go out together to celebrate the end of our 8 days together. I feel awful (on many levels) that I can’t stay. We’ll end the session by 5 p.m., I’ll have everyone help me tear down the room and repack my suitcases, and I’ll be on my way to the airport by 6 p.m. since I have to check in by 6:30. My flight leaves at 8:30.
So I have just finished packing everything I have in my room. I’ll take that suitcase and my carry ons to the training room, so I can leave from there.
Oh, on an entirely separate note, my “non smoking” room has been very touch and go. Clearly, someone smokes in the room next to mine, and the smoke comes through the wall where my bed is and where my shower is. Last night I was almost in tears because I was trying to wash off the smoke from today and smelling the smoke in the shower.
So today I noticed a guest relations desk and complained. She explained that I was actually on a non smoking floor (you could have fooled me! A very noisy group congregated in the lobby near the elevators for at least two hours, smoking up a storm).
She said that the people on this floor had specifically requested to be a non-smoking floor.
I didn’t say this to her, but it seems to me that housekeeping would be very aware of cigarette ashes in the rooms.
What I’ve learned is to not only ask for a non smoking room, but also for a non-smoking floor- and a guarantee that the rooms on either side of my room do not contain smokers.
I have loved the people in the class, but I have hated all the smoke. To not even have a smoke free haven in my room was the last straw!
In anticipation of packing to travel, I asked the room service guy who brought me my nightly small chicken Caesar salad to tell me which Jordanian coins (they are huge and very very heavy) made 1 JOD. I was able to unburden myself of 5 coins as part of the 3 JOD I leave housekeeping every day. Hurray!
I still have about 20 JOD and I think I can convert them to AED in Dubai. I’ll probably end up with 50 AED, which is great because I have not had a moment to shop here at all. I’ll be interested to see what Dubai has to offer.
I think I’ve chatted on long enough.