Deb in Amman 2013 – 3
Hello. Today was a day of many trials and great kindnesses. It all started when Diala, who had forgotten to bring in the promised CDs of Arabic music, discovered that Ayeman had music on his laptop.
So, enterprising and take charge woman that she is, Diala downloaded the music onto a thumb drive and tried to copy it into my iTunes. That was partially accomplished, and then I needed to access the PowerPoint for today (the second day of Designing and Delivering Attitude-Changing Training).
However, because Diala was so enthusiastic about the Arabic music, playing in on my computer before the class started, I was not inclined to put my music on. Usually, I play energizing classical music very softly during the training and then different pop songs to raise energy during the breaks. I didn’t do either, which took some color and energy out of the training- at least for me.
Then people didn’t get to the class until 30 minutes after the scheduled starting time of 9 a.m., which was frustrating. I brought up the need for people to be there at the correct time- if they wanted to leave at the scheduled ending time…There appeared to be tacit agreement that they would all be on time tomorrow. I guess we’ll see.
They absolutely loved the grab the Koosh activity, where they have to come up with two different content questions from the previous day and assign a point value to each, from 10 for a difficult question down to 1 for an easy question. They competed against each other at the table. Since they spoke in Arabic, I had no idea what all the conversation and humor was about. The activity went twice as long as it usually does in the States, I think because they enjoyed analyzing each question.
Then my technology failed me. My laptop started to freeze every 20 minutes or so- necessitating the need to escape the PowerPoint program and restart the computer each time. My headphones didn’t work initially, so I needed to have the participants repeat what they had already said in Arabic so I could catch up with the translation. I continually forgot to turn my microphone back on after breaks- so I’d have to repeat everything I said once they brought that to my attention.
And my computer kept freezing. And freezing. Until finally, after about the 7th time, I turned the darn thing off and worked from my materials alone. Since the PowerPoint is only a complement to the participant materials, consisting only of bullet points and cartoons, it wasn’t a substantive loss. But it was certainly not as visually stimulating as I prefer it to be.
So, no music and limited if any PowerPoint. And then things took a turn for the worse- the room filled with cigarette smoke. There had been absolutely no problem the entire preceding day, so it was a terrible surprise. My throat started to close up and my ability to think started to get clouded, because I’m terribly allergic to smoke.
Apparently, so were some of the participants, including Diala. She got on the case immediately, prowling the room, checking doors, talking to hotel staff, finally getting security to unlock two doors so we could better ventilate the place. Bless her heart, she had me stand next to a fountain, went to move outdoor ashcans far from the entry to our room, and brought me lemon tea. By the end of the break, the room was much better ventilated. However, I still felt somewhat shaky and discovered later that she had brought me lemon- flavored black tea- meaning lots of caffeine, which I never take.
Add to this general pervasive malaise an incipient headache and sore throat, because the group was very very very difficult to quiet. And they still dawdled back from break, chatting sociably after they got in the room.
Deep sigh. Oh, on top of this, one of the translators told me that she was having a terrible time providing translation because some of the participants refused to use a microphone. She told me that one of the participants actually told her that she was allergic to the microphone???!! So I had to continually, continually ask people to turn on the mics and/or repeat what they said once the mic was on.
There was also the constant juggling on my part- writing on flip charts, then having to run back to my laptop table to pick up the headphones, never knowing whether the person was going to speak in English or in Arabic- because some folks who used the headphones the day before would sometimes speak English today. As a matter of fact, there were several occasions when the translator would tell me through my headphones that the participant was speaking English.
By the end of the day, I finally said “I’m tired and I need your help.” People quieted down then, but that was toward the very end of the day.
I got the evaluations back for Day One as well as Day Two. There were two comments from today that I shouldn’t tell adults how to act. Well, I completely agree with that sentiment. I’m going to bring it up tomorrow and ask the group how that kind of situation should be handled…
Now that you’ve heard my complaints, there were wonderful parts of the day. Wael, who is a pharmacist and provides training to community based organizations because he is passionate about changing life for the better, was a wonderful support when I needed specific examples to explain concepts. As I mentioned, Diala was wonderful. Others had terrific insights, great humor and thoughtful discussion.
Oh, back to a problem that I really could have avoided, now that I consider it in hindsight. I use a questionnaire to introduce a section on assumptions about how adults learn. The purpose of the items in the questionnaire is to raise awareness rather than provide definitive answers. One young, very beautiful, woman who is not a trainer but is very bright, got fixated on one answer. We must have taken 30 minutes (I don’t think I exaggerate too much) trying to explain the answer to her.
Finally, I understood what this was all about. She is recently out of the university and, bright as she is, she is used to getting “A’s. “ She absolutely could not bear to have an incorrect answer on the questionnaire. I stopped the conversations and pointed out that there wasn’t a true right or wrong answer. You should have seen her brilliant smile of relief!
Speaking of the university, I learned something extraordinary. Many of the Jordanian women I have met happen to be engineers. Now I know why. Apparently they take a test their senior year of high school and, depending on the grade, they are told what types of occupations they can pursue. Those with the highest grades go into science, mathematics or engineering.
This came up because one of the participants was working on a lesson plan to help youth recognize what they really wanted to do, so that they could make better career decisions.
My heart goes out to these brave trainers who are trying to effect change in social, cultural and religious attitudes and behaviors. Even if they can create a training program in which their participants truly accept and adopt new attitudes and behaviors, they will have limited success.
The most sincere and committed person faces untold obstacles when they get back into their lives. People will first tease them for acting differently, then criticize, then get angry that they have changed the rules of the relationships, and finally personalize it. A person has to have a strong will and unshakable commitment to continue to act differently rather than falling back into old behaviors.
Tomorrow, we move from the more analytical aspect of lesson design (needs assessment, goal setting and learning objective creation) to the fun stuff- playing with a wide variety of learning activities that can be used to achieve the learning objectives. It will be a very busy and exciting day- and I mean that with every hope and expectation that we exhausted all of the snafus today.
When I got back to my room, I took the battery out of my computer for a while. Since then, I’ve checked out working with the PowerPoint with no difficulty. So, fingers crossed, I plan for a much calmer day.