Laurel Learning Tip #412: Training in Lagos, Day Four

“The world isn’t interested in the storms you encountered, but whether or not you brought in the ship.”  Raul Armesto

On this fourth day of training, the participants were responsible for facilitating a 10-minute participatory learning activity that they designed. It was also to be a brand new activity that they had never facilitated before.

I ran the video camera (which I brought with me, along with a wonderful light tripod that worked perfectly) which meant that I was standing all day. I actually wore my compression stockings, so I can’t imagine how much more tired I would have been without them.

With few exceptions, the participants did a wonderful job. They tried new things- brainstorming, games, case study, debate, small group problem solving. They used common ground questions: how many of you….? For the debate, Bassey asked: “How many of you have children?” When two didn’t raise their hands, he recovered by asking: “How many of you PLAN to have children?”- to which both replied in the affirmative. Bassey was setting up a debate regarding corporal punishment for children- pro and con. Just fascinating.

These appear to be cultural: each participant began the facilitated session by asking if everyone was all right and if everyone had had a good breakfast or lunch. The “facilitators” also ask the participants “do you agree? If so, raise your hand.”

As a rule, the participants also stand when they respond to a question or have something to say.

Yesterday was national dress day, so as I had written earlier, I was looking forward to having a class full of wonderful Nigerian costumes. Only two came dressed that way- Lawal, who was the only woman and dressed in native clothing every day, and Wade, who wore a traditional men’s long shirt and pants, as well as a beautiful soft hat. Tricia was also dressed in native costume that she had been given earlier and she looked wonderful- the oranges and browns of the patterns on the fabric complimented her red hair. She also had a head dress.

Later that afternoon, I was given my own green patterned dress and head scarf, as well as beautiful white large pearl or pearly bead double strand necklace, earrings and bracelet. I wore it the rest of the day and it was very light (cotton) and comfortable. Everyone took their picture with me! We even took a few class pictures. What this means is that a hotel employee took pictures of all of us with at least 8 different cameras!! I was sure that I would see flash spots the rest of the day!

Now the upsetting part of the day was the choice by the master trainer who is supposed to take over providing my train the trainer materials. He scheduled himself to facilitate at the very end- and proceeded to give a traditional lecture. (Did I mention that lecture was NOT allowed?) I was very happy to see some of the participants shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me. They knew what was wrong.

At the end of his practice session, as I had done for every other participants, I first asked for the group to identify the strengths of his activity. A few waxed eloquent at how wonderful he was. (They all admire and respect him greatly).

When I asked what recommendations the group had, a few pointed out that he had lectured. But he began to argue that there wasn’t enough time to do anything else. (Please realize that 13 other individuals had used interactive learning activities successfully in their ten- minute practice sessions).

I had a terribly difficult decision to make. One of my cardinal rules for training is to dignify the learner. I never set out to intentionally embarrass a participant. Yet, in this instance, I simply could not end the training on this note. His choice to lecture essentially invalidated the entire three days of training on adult learning principles, learning styles, 10 categories of participatory learning activities, etc.

It seemed to me that I had no other choice but to address the issue directly.

I asked the group to identify the basis for our choice of learning activity- they knew that it was NOT the number of people or the number of minutes- but that it is based on the desired learning level. Then I suggested that we discuss what the master trainer could have done differently. Other participants identified at least six different participatory learning activities he could have used instead of lecture. I was very proud of them!

Although we did a few wrap up activities and a celebration (with bubbles and music that they loved!) at the end of the training day, I was very concerned that the participants would be turned off as well as turned against me by my treatment of their idol. However, that was not the case. Every evaluation was glowing. Whew!

An exciting side note. Tricia had mentioned her concern that the business and finance trainers were now prepared to train using the materials I designed, but the health trainers (doctors and pharmacists) still had their old lecture materials- and it would be very difficult for them to redesign those materials. She mentioned that to Ayo (the woman in charge of the project)- and the fact that I could design program specific materials from the States- and Ayo was ecstatic.

Ayo has asked me to tell her how long I think it will take to design 12 days of training- two four day training programs and two two day training programs. I need to let her know on Monday. There is also already talk about my coming back to train more trainers. I definitely wouldn’t mind that at all.

On an entirely different note, I saw a huge line of scooters along the side of the road and asked why they were there. You know my earlier mention of seeing two or three people on a scooter? The scooters are actually taxis- people are paying to ride behind them!

That night, I had a two-hour Skype call with Piotr in D.C., who was the driving force behind my work with US AID Nigeria. We discussed my training experience here at length. He also asked me how long my layover would be in Amsterdam when I leave to fly to Jordan on Wednesday. He suggested that I get a day room at the Yotel (hotel) at the Amsterdam Airport.

That prompted me to actually look at my tickets to see how long my layover would be. I am scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. and I don’t leave for Amman, Jordan until 4:30 p.m. Since I don’t appear to be able to sleep on the plane (which will be 7+ hours), I’m so glad he suggested I do something so I can sleep at the airport.

Today, Saturday, Tricia and I went with Ayo (our terrific and fierce-looking driver) to an open air market with arts and crafts, carvings, wood, bronze, jewelry, paintings, clothing. It was open air, but in a concrete building that was like a maze. Every step we took, someone was trying to draw us into his or her “shop”- calling out Mama or Madam (both terms of respect) and telling us there was no charge to look. Thank goodness Ayo was there, because you have to bargain prices and he knew how to get the price to half their original asking price. Neither Tricia nor I could have bargained that way. I am happy to report that my shopping foray was very very satisfactory!

Then we went to a mall to purchase DVDs for me to upload the videos I’ve taken of the participants.  While there, we ran into Bassey (who I mentioned earlier) who was there with his little boys.  We ran into them again at the Shoprite grocery store- and again at the checkout counter. Talk about an amazing coincidence!

Next, we went to a huge off-white sand beach- where there were lots of horses for folks to ride and near the water’s edge were umbrellas with tables and chairs under them- all for a price. Ayo walked with me (for my safety) while Tricia rested in the car. We had to pay to park, pay to get onto the beach (the fellow told us it was 200N each, but Ayo just gave him N200 for both of us- you see why his looking fierce and powerful is such an asset, because no one argues with him!!

We watched a man teaching maybe 20 little boys how to ride the waves and swim in the ocean. Further down the beach, there were three tiny tots standing just beyond where the waves would lick their toes.

In an hour, I’m going to meet Tricia for dinner. We going to do something new and exciting- walk to the Chinese restaurant next door! We are both tired of the starter buffet with salads and cold meats at our hotel! So this will be a real treat!

Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be working with the videos and the DVDs. I plan to sleep really late tomorrow (no wake up call)!

On Monday, we will leave at 8 a.m. to get to the office by 9 a.m. so i can set up for the Business Counseling training, which will start at 10 a.m. The three gentlemen who will receive the training: Ben Ben, Bassey and Kazeem, will be training others using the materials later. So this will also be a train the trainer.

In addition, I’ll speak with Ayo about the curriculum design and possible train the trainer work she would like me to do.

I’ll end this with a comment from one of the participants on his evaluation: “I have been grooved with standardized facilitating techniques in just four days!”

May your learning be sweet.


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