Reviewing the Feedback
In part 13, I posted all the feedback that the students submitted anonymously. For the most part, there were no surprises. The areas for improvement centered on a few themes, namely better control of some of the discussions and starting on time. While I have tried to let the discussions flow organically because the students were so passionate, there have been a few instances where some individuals hijacked the topic. When discussions were led by the facilitators, I was careful not to interfere too much to avoid appearing to undermine their credibility and authority. However, now that I have developed a stronger sense of the class dynamic, I will be more diligent about moderating the discussions more firmly.
In a previous blog, I wrote about having a soft start at 8 am and a hard start at 8:30, with lateness being recorded and penalized. I was trying to be sensitive to the difficulties in getting reliable transportation but now I realize that with a great deal of content left to cover, I need to start promptly on time. Time has been wasted waiting for people to arrive and by accommodating them, I was actually condoning their tardiness. I spoke to a others in the local community to get some input and they unanimously supported a hard start at 8 am; if this is not done then the students will start to take the program for granted.
Facing Our Fears
I have been told that there is a tendency here to put forth the best face even if things are not going well. This can be isolating so I want to provide the opportunity to keep in contact with each other.. Therefore, as a continuation of our group discussion, I asked the class how they were feeling about becoming entrepreneurs – were they scared, discouraged, enthusiastic, and/or optimistic? Most were anxious and unsure of themselves (as would be expected in any new entrepreneur). The fears articulated were about competition, not getting a loan, defaulting on a loan, and not being able to sustain and grow their business. As the teacher, I tried to address their fears with specific tactics, but it was gratifying to see other students chiming in with moral support. We heard some encouraging words about finding a way, and not giving up if faced with an obstacle. One person brought up a movie he saw in which a new born pony was struggling to walk, fell down, got up until one day he was able to outrun all the other horses. He pointed out that even if others do not see your potential, you have what it takes to succeed within. We only had a half an hour left in the class so we did not have much time to have a thorough discussion. Still, I think that this brief exercise was helpful in partially addressing their concerns. When the program is over, we will be providing monthly meetings during which each can share their progress, challenges, and concerns with each other. We also have arranged mentors from some of our program partners to mentor the graduates with practical and on-going advice.