Day 6 of Train the Trainer, Amman
When I arrived downstairs, no lights were on! Eman and I walked into the training room and luckily she knew how to turn on the lights. Everything was as I had left it that night. Eman put out the Koosh balls (now down to 18) and pipe cleaners. No dice or wands, for obvious reasons.
She practiced her facilitation program while I set up my electronics and reposted any fallen kites. Then I wrote: English Sign Up on one flip chart and Arabic Sign Up on the other, in preparation for the two practice groups. But Talal, one of those needing English translation, came up to me to ask that all of the participants stay in one group because they wanted my feedback.
I told him I’d see if I could manage it, knowing that we had two activities to get through before the facilitation practice could begin. If we began at the scheduled time of 8:00 am and went until 6:00 pm, I figured we wouldn’t be able to begin the practice sessions until 11:00 am. There was no way that each person could have 30 minutes (5 minutes to set up and break down, 10 to facilitate, and 15 to receive feedback). Even giving 20 minutes a piece, that got us to 6- and we needed at least 45 minutes for debriefing, post-test, evaluations, certificates and celebration.
When Majd got in, I told her about Talal’s request and she agreed that breaking into two groups would be most feasible. However, as more people arrived it became clear to me that only 2 planned to facilitate in English and everyone else would be in the Arabic group! So the decision was moot. I just needed to hope that we could start at 8- (nope, a bad traffic jam kept many folks from arriving until 8:30 or afterwards)- and cut lunch in half- (nope, the men felt that 30 minutes was too short for them to pray and eat, so we could only cut lunch down to 45 minutes)- okay, that some miracle happened and time was elastic, so we could accomplish everything before 6 (Majd checked to see if we could go later and no one felt they could stay because they had to take care of personal matters before they left the next morning to drive to Acaba for a 6-day negotiation training!)
I’m sorry that paragraph was so long, but it definitely represents what was going on!
I began by walking the group through what the agenda map would have shown them- the focus and content up to today. Then we had two activities to complete Day 5. The first was a hands-on activity using Tinker Toys to create a merry-go-round. We created three groups and I dumped out Tinker Toys on each table. One person from each table volunteered to be an observer and another volunteered to be the Voice of Reality, who would continually interfere with the building process for the first ten minutes. The groups really got into the project- and the Voices of Reality were quickly either ignored or pushed aside. While two groups had begun their merry-go-rounds, one group still had all the components on the table. Yet, surprisingly, that group finished before everyone else.
The rowdy Arabic-only speakers, all guys, created a merry go round extraordinaire! All groups were very proud of their creations and posed for photos.
We discussed how the activity can be used for leadership and team building and they felt they could use a similar activity in their programs.
Then on to six principles of accelerated learning, which they could attribute to the merry go round project. We closed Day Five with a fill in the blanks questionnaire to check their retention- then finally were ready to begin Day Six!! Whew!
Day Six began with a PowerPoint Jeopardy with five categories to cover the content of the previous five days. Because one of the groups required translation, I decided that the other groups could not try to answer until Mohammad (who was translating) stood up to indicate his group was ready. Then all the members of a table group had to stand before they could answer a question. I was going to have the table groups tally their own points on an honor system. However, Mohammad suggested (I’m laughing as I’m typing this) that it would be better if some objective person kept score, since there was no trust that groups wouldn’t cheat! I agreed to keep score- and had the groups come up with a name for themselves.
The groups were: The Neocortexs, the Falcons, the Dolphins and the Lucky Six! The Falcons (with Murad) and the Neocortexs (with Majd and Heba) won with just one point difference. I rewarded them with small pinball machines.
We took a break and then began the facilitation sessions. Although I had a special feedback sheet for them to use, they had been printed in numbers needed for two groups of 10 rating 9 others in each group. As a result, we didn’t have enough for 20 to rate 19 others. I wrote a basic format on a flip chart: Name, Activity, Strengths, Recommendations- and asked the participants to use small pads of paper on the tables to create their own feedback sheets. That seemed to work pretty well.
I’m thrilled to report that no one fell into lecture, which is always a concern. Everyone engaged the participants in one or more activities. Almost all of the facilitated activities required everyone to get up, so we had lots of happy kinesthetic learners! And everyone did a wonderful job!
Majd, Heba (from a previous program) and/or Mohammad (who was videotaping) provided translation. Luckily, Zaid, their project leader, was there to provide feedback regarding nuances that I definitely missed.
I wish that I had taken better notes so I could tell you about each of the facilitated activities. Unfortunately, my need to pay attention to the translation and also to the time kept me sufficiently distracted so I entirely forgot to at least list the activities they used.
You’ll probably be relieved that I can only report on nine. Since it’s been two days and long sleepless flights since then, you have to know that these nine had to be pretty amazing for me to remember them! I’m just going to hit the highlights:
Hala split the participants into two groups, having one prepare reasons why using social media in their outreach work was a good idea and the other group prepare reasons why it wasn’t. Then she had the groups debate, which I’ve never seen before but worked beautifully! Both sides had strong arguments, so it was a very lively debate.
Eman had everyone stand up to have them experience that we pay more attention to nonverbal than verbals. She would say “nose” and point to her knee- and most pointed to their knees. She would say “arm” and point to her chin, etc. It was a very powerful demonstration.
Luma showed a video with a man who ended up crying. Then she had the participants complete a worksheet that had the numbers 1-20 placed randomly. They had one minute to find the numbers in order. She next showed a video that was very funny and had them complete another worksheet in one minute. She wanted to demonstrate that we find tasks much harder when we are sad, as part of an emotional intelligence experiment. Fascinating!
Dima had the participants pair up and try to poke a slim pointed stick through an inflated balloon. Unfortunately, not only could no group accomplish it, neither could she ultimately demonstrate it. Apparently it can be done. She had two balloons taped to the wall and within each was a note explaining how to do it. Heba ran to pop them and read the notes, which said that there are two places in a balloon where the latex is most flexible. I don’t think I’ll try that one because I couldn’t bear to have balloons popping all around me.
Majd seated men in one line parallel and opposite to the women. Then she gave each a proverb to act out in charades. Each proverb was very negative toward women- and when they were acted out, the unfairness and meanness of the proverbs (which reflect the culture) were even more apparent. The participants had great fun doing it, but It was a powerful activity.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember who facilitated this. Maybe Sandy? The person divided the group into two groups to run a relay race to list as many ideas for what religion and the community can do to support and encourage women to succeed.
Abdullah had everyone stand up on one side of the room. He explained that he would tell them a story and every time they heard a number they would have to form groups of that number. They loved it, racing to be part of a group and not be left out. This related to something about the brain but I don’t remember what.
Zaid had written and posted three flip charts: agree, neutral and disagree. He had the group stand and participants move to line up in front of the relevant flip chart as he made statements. He began with simple objective statements: “I am single.” “I have children.” Then he moved to more subjective statements: “I am considered short.” Finally he moved to deeply personal statements: “I would marry a person of a different color.” “I would allow my child to marry a Syrian refuge.” When he debriefed with the group, for many it had been a moment of truth. Some were surprised at their choices, which seemed counter to what they thought they believed. Again, very powerful.
Murad split the groups into two, giving one group the task of drawing the characteristics of a good listener and the other group the task of drawing the characteristics of a good speaker. The groups had fun with it. Murad is one of the senior trainers (along with Majd and Luma). I watched in awe as he would raise his hand and look sternly to have the groups quiet immediately. Had I known it was so simple, I would have done it! I was advised, however, that people are “afraid” of him for some reason, and I definitely didn’t cultivate that emotion in the participants, so it probably would not have worked for me!
Majd and Murad scheduled themselves last, thinking that they would not facilitate if time ran out. But I knew they wanted my feedback, so we just kept going. I’m glad we did. However, this resulted in incredible stress for me. I had the participants complete the post-test and stood grading them as they were handed in. I was also placing their scores in a table to determine how much their pre-test grade had improved. They all stood around me, watching and reading what I wrote. Yikes! I knew that we still had to have a certificate ceremony, but Majd told me we could just hand them out informally. I had her read them off and distribute them while I completed the grading. Then I rewarded those with the greatest improvement with parrot-shaped paddles with balls attached.
There was no time for the ending celebration, so I had everyone take bubbles home with them. We finished at 6:10. Whew!
Then Zaid called for a group photo, for which we all posed as a hotel staff person took the formal photo and folks in the group took selfies with the group.
I got a lot of hugs from the women thanking me and handshakes or comments from the men. Abdullah actually gave me a side hug. Majd had to run since her husband and three month old son were waiting for her. Murad and Luma stayed to help clean and pack up. This first involved dismantling the three tinker toy creations. Next, taking down all of the kites. Murad left and Luma stayed to the bitter end (I’ve never had anyone do that before!). She helped me wheel the two large suitcases to my room, then gave me two of her beautiful woven bracelets and a lacy white shawl. And great hugs!
So I packed, took a shower, ate some fruit (I couldn’t bear another meal) and was picked up at 11 pm to go to the airport, where I got some fantastic humus and lots of pita bread to scoop it up with. Lovely.
The 5 hour flight from Amman to Frankfort left late, so by the time we got to Frankfort it seemed very likely that I would miss my flight. I raced as quickly as I could- to be stopped for passport check- for luggage security- for other security, running what seemed like a mile. By the time I got to the plane I was dripping wet and had to ask the steward as I boarded for a drink of water.
This is the first flight where I absolutely froze, despite cocooning in two blankets, for a good portion of the 9 hour flight.
When I got off the plane in Chicago, I realized that I had two apples in my carry on and I had better dump them. Good thing I did, because while I waited for my luggage after passport control, an officer with a dog came over to me. She asked if I had fruit and I said I didn’t any more. The dog can smell fruit several days after it’s been removed. (I learned my lesson some trips ago when they pulled me over for having an orange and held me for quite a while).
I finally got home to Madison at 2:30 pm to a nice sunny 70 F day, with spring flowers and fruit trees in blossom.
Thank you for coming with me.