I am a big fan of the personality test by Myers and Briggs – basically it’s a bunch of questions about yourself and how you react to certain situations.  There are four categories where you can fall into one of two categories:  extroverted or introverted; sensing or intuitive; feeling or thinking; and perceiving or judging.  I’m an ENFJ – extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging.  I’ll let you look up to definitions and focus on the J in my own personality.


Judging is not to say that I am someone who is quick to judge; more that I am decisive and fair to a fault.  I like to give my full attention to the task at hand – I make schedules for myself and stick to them.  I don’t get distracted easily and I abhor being interrupted.  This particular aspect of my personality has never jived with my chosen profession.  International development is all about rolling with the punches and letting things go with the flow.  During this particular post it’s especially true – I’m dealing with kids.  Not just any kids either – these are kids with stuff to do. 


Not like in the US where kids have a billion after school activities their soccer moms shuttle them to in minivans – real stuff.  They have to earn their keep at home because they don’t live with their parents they live with relatives or friends of the family that pay their tuition in exchange for their labor.  They have exams and while I remember the pressure of exams myself – I don’t remember ever feeling like my entire life was hinged on my chemistry grade.  For these kids, it might.  Some of them work until late in the night - selling grilled fish and phone credit to UB students and ex-pats like myself as we leave the bars.  By the time they get to me they are distracted and tired and hungry – a recipe for disaster in most cases. 


They leave early and arrive late.  They’ve got an endless number of excuses to fool around when they don’t get their hands on a mouse first.  They lie to get onto the free computer and then deny the lie less than a nanosecond after telling it.  It’s enough to make me go crazy.  Of course, in my insanity I try to remember it’s me and not them that needs to change.  I need them to learn and I need tem to have fun.  I need for them to feel like they got something out of this program beyond watching the white lady go crazy.  What shocks me the most is no matter how frustrated I seem and no matter how many times they ask to leave they still come back the next day.  I have repeated thousands of times, “no one is forcing you to be here” and they don’t feel forced.  They come and they stare at the computer.  When they finally get a chance they don’t even necessarily do any work – they just stare.  It’s incredibly unnerving. 


I want to scream – “there are so many people who would be DOING the assignment if they were able to get into the class!”  But, the minutes fly on and their notes pages doesn’t get any longer and they still claim to be learning…right before they tell me they have to go meet their mother.  What’s even more difficult is the discrepancy between their levels of proficiency.  Some are can only be described as computer wiz others I wonder if they can actually read the text on the screen with any kind of fluency. 


I’m torn between just wanting them to do whatever it is they want to do on the computer – which includes staring at a blank Word document - and trying to keep them on task.  I have a job to do and a lesson plan to stick to, but it seems a Sisyphean task.  Erin, a perpetual P is perfectly suited for this kind of work.  I imagine her standing in front of the class and having them each pour out the same stories and her saying OK and happily moving onto the students who are working without a thought for whether or not it’s fair.  She would understand that of course it’s fair – her attention should go to those who want it and not those who leave.  Moreso, that those who leave aren’t dumping the class, in fact they love the class, they are just doing what they gotta do.  Even more so, that no one in the group would accuse them of not carrying their weight, but be happy to do more without another person there. 


Office hours have become an even better idea of late.  Those who miss working with their group can make up the hours during the rest of the week.  They get more time on the computer and I get to feel like they are not just trying to dump their work on their partners.  We all win because less people in the classroom at a time means more time with the mouse for everyone.  I just hope what I’m telling myself as I type is true.  I’m petrified that the big day to leave will come and I’ll leave these kids with nothing but a desire to finish the work they did not.  Then I see myself typing work and try to remind myself that after school groups are supposed to be fun!  Oh lordy, when am I ever gonna get into the groove of this.


Being here might have solidified something I already knew – I thrive with adults and schedules – with procedures and by-laws for conduct.  I’d describe myself as laid back and I don’t think that anyone I know would disagree, but there is a very real side of me that can only be laid back when things are laid out and clear – transparent and ever so slightly predictable.  I can roll with the punches as long as I understand where the punches are coming from.  Here everything comes form left field and I am curious to see how it will turn out. 


I hope with all my heart that it turns out with 4 websites, 4 videos, and 4 podcasts made by the kids and me with a cushy desk job in DC attending boring morning meetings with boring professional adults. ;)