Posts Tagged ‘facilitation


What Jerusalem Day and Teachers’ Day and Spock have in common

spockWithout teachers, there might not be a Jerusalem.  How’s that, you might ask.  Well, it is a matter of “Tradition” as goes the song in “Fiddler on the Roof.”  There has always been the Jewish tradition of teaching the next generation.  The whole liturgy of the Passover is one big object lesson for kids.  While university professors were lecturing away, enjoying the sound of their own voice, doing a data dump in their bored students’ minds, rabbis were facilitating before facilitators were in vogue.  Talk about home-schooling, Jewish mothers would teach the Hebrew aleph-bet by baking cookies in the shape of the letters.

When will educators leave behind the old Greek oratory lecture method of teaching and enter into interactive learning?  The Digital Age of Education is how we will teach the next generation.  It has to be quick, memorable, visual, putting the student in the driver’s seat.  This is scarey for the 20th century educator.  But I say to you, give it up!  Even Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has given his mantle to Zachary Quinto, Elijah/Elisha style, ensuring future generation of Trekkies.   See them together in Audi advert.

Right now I am developing an online course for the most ancient of languages:  Hebrew.  This will not be a course for old fogies who want a grammar lesson.  This is meant for kids–because they are the ones who need to find Hebrew fun, because it is.  Through a company called iSpring, I have been able to make powerpoint presentations and upload them on their site.  They convert them to flash presentations.  But this is the kicker–they keep all my animations–which are essential to the method of the course.  Also, the student has control on the slides: the student can set the pace. Other website where you can upload your ppt don’t always offer these features.  That is where YouTube doesn’t cut it–a video is too fluid–it’s gone before you know it.  No time for reflection.  With iSpring, a student can stop one a slide as long as needed.  it’s easy to go back and repeat.  In learning languages, it’s all about repetition.  The student can hear the word as many times as necessary.  What is good about iSpring is that it accommodates a language written right to left. Also, there is no problem mixing the English with the Hebrew.

Also, at the end of each module, there is a game, what some would call a quiz. For learning to take place, real learning, students need to have the opportunity to check what they have studied, and many times, the learning actually takes place during the game.

This course is a great way for kids who are preparing for their Bar-Mitzva and Bat-Mitva to actually learn how to read Hebrew and have fun.  After this course, they can easily learn to read the prayers and scripture that they need to know.  And if some adults who are still kids at heart want to learn how to read Hebrew, they can enjoy it too.

In the Jewish tradition, I am searching for beta-testers.  I welcome interaction from participants where I can learn from you.


I am sorry; please forgive me. I was wrong.

submissive-tigerThese nine words don’t seem to be too common in colloquial Indian English especially in the workplace.  When preparing  material for an International Business English seminar,  complicated grammatical points and new vocabulary are not the main points.  These nine words will be challenging enough.  Yes, all the participants know what the words mean.  they know how to pronounce them. Then why do participants find it so difficult to say these words?

If I want to have fun, and I always want to have fun,  as the facilitator, I have the participants pair up for role play.  They must act out a scenario where one person has made a mistake and must admit it to the other.  Otherwise articulate managers will suddenly stutter and go silent when they need to say these words.   Some are able to articulate the words, it will be a little above a whisper and lost in the drone of the AC motor.  Others will say the words clearly but add many caveats on how it wasn’t really their fault and the cause of the mix-up was really the other partner’s mistake.

At times, I feel like I am doing speech therapy, helping the participants form the words, coaxing them to articulate.  For Indians, they will suddenly look as pale as an Englishman in November.  They will either freeze or one part of their body will start to jump–a whole leg will start to twitch, fingers drum on the table, and the eyes blink rapidly or stop all together to present the glazed gaze.  Suddenly a pen will taste very good.  One may suddenly need to go to use the facilities.

If I really want to challenge the participants, I will pair up a man with a woman, or a subordinate with an upper manager, or a Tamil with a North Indian.  There will be appropriate scenarios where the manager made the mistake and has to apologize.

We also do virtual team meetings reenactments with Western counterparts.  Participants learn that in business cultures where direct speech is common, they must outwardly admit when they have made a mistake. How much money can be saved when team members learn to say and use these nine words?  How many projects will escape long-term delays?  How many relationships can be repaired?  How much trust could be established?

So why aren’t these nine words heard more often?  Because the root meaning of these words have a different meaning in Indian English.   It’s a different value system.  Words have meaning in that particular cultural value system.  To some Indians, to admit that he was wrong is a sign of weakness, defeat, and vulnerability.   It would be taking on the submissive role of exposing his throat as when two tigers fight.  He feels as though he will lose credibility among his peers and with his boss.  He fears that if he takes the blame for that one instance, he might be the scapegoat for any problems related to it.  To admit that one is wrong, one can lose his status.

When American businessmen read this they could easily think that this cultural attitude is due to pride.  It is not as easy as that.  It is simply not part of the mentality, meaning that it is not a conscious decision.  Deep cultural characteristics are in the subconscious.  The participants are not aware that they are trying to pass the buck.  They are using normal negotiation tactics in their culture.

In most Western cultures, the person who needs to apologize will do so because he has faith that when he does, he will be repairing the relationship and perhaps making it stronger.  The Indian doesn’t necessarily have that assurance.  He may feel that it is safer for him to lie or cover the truth in order to keep the relationship.

This little blog cannot do justice to this subject.  I write it only as a talking point for others to add their wisdom and experience.  And if I have written something in error, then I’m sorry; please forgive me.  I was wrong.

(To learn how to write an apology email, see this sample: