Friday, April 4, 2008

My Lesson

I really need to talk about this so come on here my bloggy blog. You may be mute and sometimes dumb, but you sure do listen.

Well, yesterday was my presentation. The course was Training and Development and the main objective is to train us to design training courses, plan for them and deliver them. Regardless of the mid-term exam, the final exam, the training proposal and lesson plan as assignments, yesterday’s presentation was the actual implementation of everything we learned and the culmination of the skills we acquired.

Throughout the course, I had a weird problem. I used to sit in the front row in that class and, unconsciously I guess, simply watch at the instructor. I had a real problem getting what she said and this was truly mind-boggling to me. It was simple plain and clear English and I had no problem at all getting it when I read the book alone; all the learning theories and the on-the-job and off-the-job training techniques, etc. But when the instructor was there, I would simply go blank and it took me more than three months to understand. The instructor was a most adorable human being that you would be lucky if you ever come across one day. She was warm, approachable, understanding, sweet and very smart. Her pure love of her job and how she believed in it made me relate to her right away having my own previous teaching experience and believing that I was made for it. She also had a highly regarded experience and used to amuse as well as teach us through a myriad of stories and situations that prepared us for what we are to face in the real life and away from the book’s ideal and unrealistic propositions. She was very much creative and resourceful and would use the kind of examples and practice exercises that always found their way to our memory and remained there. I don’t think I really need to go through the book at all to remember how to be a good trainer one day. And that was it! During class time, I was simply distracted from what she was saying by actually watching every movement she made and how she delivered the lessons. She was the true example to follow. And she would see right through you right away and know what kind of person you are. She had that kind of heart! Answering every question, greeting each one of us as we entered the class, respecting the human beings we are and never abusing her authority, and facing every problem or class disruption with a smile first. I will never forget how her evening classes coincided with hockey games and how one of us was a complete fan that he kept following the score on his laptop. When she asked him what it was that made him that busy he simply said the truth. “Well, alrighty then,” she said, “keep us updating us on the score. I too am a hockey fan.” She knows that we paid money for that course, that we are giving it our time which of course takes away from other work-life responsibilities, she knows that we are totally responsible for our results, she knows how fare she is when she marks our work, and she simply believed in us. And hey, that student is actually one of the top 10%! Yes, she was that broad-minded and professional.

Throughout the course, she would encourage me and tell me how much she believed in me. And yesterday after I delivered my lesson she said, “You really did well. I forgot at times that I should be evaluating you and was completely absorbed in your lesson” I smiled and thanked her like I always did. But she repeated, “Rasha, you are not listening to me. You are not hearing it yet. This is not me trying to make you feel good; you really did a great job!”

Which brings us to my presentation!

Well, I kept shaking my head both sides in disbelief all the time last night every time I remember a mistake I made or adding something that I should have. I prepared so very well for it for more than a month and loved the material and the idea. I did a good job preparing everything and having a final look on my way there I was actually very confident and was very looking forward to it. But my “issues” surfaced right at the wrong time. I was aware when I was talking to a friend sitting next to me that I was pretending to be tense. I had a stellar power point, a big beautiful lantern that I knew where exactly to put and a beautiful incense cone to light up and fill the class with the aroma and charm of the Middle East; the topic of my presentation. I also had unique souvenirs from that area of the world that I meant to give to everyone to have them always remember that class. I had the picture slides, the Youtube clip, the videorecording on intercultural communication styles, and the information I collected from at least four books. But I guess I chose to be tense instead of being confident and thanks to the other management and behaviour classes I studies, I now know why I behaved like that. It is simple! If I am tense and worried then that would be a good justification if I make any mistakes. And the stupid English teacher in me would stumble or stutter every time I made a grammatical mistake or try to over-correct it.

I waited for my turn to deliver my lesson. When I entered the class, the last one if I may add, I found that the tables were rearranged. There were two tables at the front and on them was, what seemed to be, all possible kinds of liquor bottles (filled with water), different shapes of cups, a mixer, ice, pop and juice cans to add to the liquor and all other stuff. The training was by three of my colleagues and the theme was how to make the signature drinks of a bar they pretended to run and manage. Since I do not drink and have never been to a bar, the whole thing was completely new to me and when I was asked to practice and mix a drink, I passed that to the people sitting next to me saying that I might not be the best person to do that!

The next lesson was about how to decorate cupcakes. A sweet colleague of us with an apron on pretended that we are all bakers, distributed the cupcakes and the icing cans we are to squeeze to decorate the cupcakes with and had us try out different styles with different colors; and then eat them. But I could not eat mine cause I was next.

I stood there, trying to figure out how to run all the machines around me, the VCR for the video recording and the laptop for my power point and the Youtube clip, with two different remote controls in my hands! I had to decide whether to display the lantern and the light up the cones but due to lack of time and confusion I opted not to. I was running out of time and I had to start and to minimize my confusion I asked everyone to come forward, since they were scattered in the class, and they did.

And on started my lesson.

Come to think of it now, I guess it was ok. The beginning was too serious though than how I imagined it would be. I remember that I stood there wondering after the cupcake decoration and liquor mixing, why does my life have to be that complicated! “Business Etiquette in the Middle East”! The theme was orienting the senior sales directors of a software company to the do’s and don’ts when in a meeting with their future Middle East clients. And I was the “Business Etiquette and Communication Advisor”; yeah right! But the couple of jokes, or rather real life situations that I brought up eventually were completely unexpected by my audience and helped set up the mood. When I asked for a volunteer to help me explain the difference of personal space between people in the Middle East and in North America, and how greeting, hugging and cheek-kissing as well can accompany a handshake among members of the same sex, my colleague put out her hand to shake mine and the difference of how I did it and how she did was very clear. And when I asked her before lightly hugging and kissing her, “Are you ready?”, the poor thing was almost mortified! And we all laughed. I guess it was OK now as I look back and smile.

I ran for flavored coffee in the break cause I was dying for any sugar and was still shaking when the lesson following mine started. Two of my colleagues were store managers, I think, and they were training us how to help a customer choose the right bra fit! Yep! Do you now know how complicated my life is?? Well, they had the mannequin there, the measuring tape, the different forms of shapes of stuff for the mannequin to try on, and all the works! Trying to create a rapport, the trainers asked us for our experience and the fact that there were about 3 or four young men there made it hilarious especially when one was relating the mistakes he made when choosing the right fit! In my astonishment and disbelief, I said to myself that this is life and as real as can be. And the confidence with which the lesson was delivered was something to reflect on.

And it was over. I didn’t mind much how everyone kept telling me how informative my lesson was; they are all nice people really. But I was glad that it was over for the good and the bad of it. I went back home with the lantern still in its bag, the cone unlighted, the souvenirs that I totally forgot about still in their bag as well, and with the memories, unforgettable memories.

I just wanted to get it out my blog and tell you about it. For some reason, I felt that I need to save this in spite of the fact that I really should be studying for the rest of my final and real exams. Not all courses are as nice and not all my instructors are like that. One of them is a walking-talking lifeless zombie and another made me so angry last week that I got red in the face and left the class instead of standing there and tell him what he should really know or in an ideal world give him one heck of a punch on the face!

Better get going.