Jump-Start Vol.5

What are your strengths?

Writing has been a chief skill of mine my entire adult life.

I attach both pride and pleasure to the process of creating a great document. I never tire of finding ways to make documents better.

Making the writing better can take many forms. For example, creating more economy or clarity in the language. Sometimes, it means making the way that the text is presented more appealing; that’s why my skills go beyond word-processing to include some graphic-design.

I have to be careful, though. I am always tempted to elaborate. Right now, I should be elaborating on my strengths but I’m not-so-secretly trying to crack what is always the hardest nut in an interview: “what’s your greatest weakness?” I think the question doesn’t add much value to an interview but it keeps appearing and demands to be answered adeptly. When I am writing anything, I need clear parameters so I don’t have too much fun with the process, or elaborate too much, or forget vital information because I’m trying to make the message sound less dry.

Program delivery is one of my favorite things…

…immediately, I found another potential weakness: this is a position for someone with technical skills, not an opportunity to design trainings or educational modules. Yet the qualities I acquired by studying training design are still attributes I believe colleagues will value or at least want.

To keep my résumé slimmer, I omitted two of my more interesting past-times in ‘the DMV’: Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation and The Washington Improvised Theater. I didn’t want to risk looking unprofessional and/or non-serious on my

To keep my résumé slimmer, I omitted two of my more interesting past-times in ‘the DMV’: Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation and The Washington Improvised Theater. I didn’t want to risk looking unprofessional and/or non-serious on my résumé ~ now, I have a pair of surprises in my pocket! Yes, I took some improvising classes: what did that experience teach me?

*sips tea*

…I could always argue that it extended my ability to team-build. I have books of team-building exercises. There is almost nothing that improvising has to offer to the duties of a “International Services Advisor” but it does make me a better colleague in general.

*sips tea*

I have even less to say about blues jams. Each is one more example of a situation where I was willing to be a beginner who brought his entire energy to a new situation.

*no more tea*

Oh! Of course! The ‘Pirate Robot Ninja’ typology! The menu of notes! Heuristics! I love to adopt, adapt, and create heuristics. I really love a good heuristic…

*bathroom break*

Here are some great things about me because I’m good at program delivery:

  • I build time into my schedule to account for the time other people will need to respond
  • I see every person I correspond with as a potential collaborator
  • I know how to take responsibility for what my supervisees are doing, in more ways that one. For example, I equip supervisees with the supplies they need and scaffold their thought processes. I ask them for regular feedback so I can compile that into summaries. If there’s an unexpected calamity, I understand it is my responsibility to know what I could have done to prepare them and to put structures in place to mitigate risks in the future
  • I am a nerd about sequencing activities, creating novel ways to engage content, eliciting responses
  • etc.

I am fueled by a sense of Purpose

Something I wouldn’t want to bring-up in any interview, ever, is my experience working in a preschool classroom. Until just now, I hadn’t even thought to mine that experience for my weaknesses.

Certainly, my failure in that environment highlights one of my key strengths: I can persist for a long time under duress with a sense of purpose. I truly felt like those children, me, my colleagues, and all the money that school had collected — everyone and everything except the administrators — would be better served somewhere else. I often thought (and still think) that the children would have been happier, healthier, and maybe even learned more if they were roaming a field of goats. Granted, they might have learned more in our classroom — but at what cost? They didn’t spend the day getting attention from adults who loved them; even though we cared about them, the classroom ratios were so terrible that the smallest of them didn’t get the attention they needed. That also meant I didn’t get to spend the time I needed with our 5-year-olds, who were capable of learning throughout a full day of school. In fact, I had to spend most of the afternoon in the nap-room with the smallest children because they are, quite literally, not ready for a full day of school.

I may never get this totally off my chest (even if I’ve written about it before?). The day that really broke me was not a particularly hard one. It wasn’t the trip to the pumpkin-patch (typical Fall-themed tourist trap in all its glory) in the Autumn of 2016. That field-trip was challenging but we did it! The children had a wonderful time and I saw a ray of light in the entire process. The next Spring, I tried to start a conversation with some of the children about our trip to the pumpkin-patch.

Nothing. None of them remembered. They retained nothing of our greatest effort, seemingly one of our best days as a class and program.

I knew better than most what that meant, too. I studied communication and education. Negatively bias dictates that they probably did, indeed, retain the most negative aspects of their experiences at that school. Later observations proved this to be true: they did remember some pretty bad experiences. Not a blessed morsel of the pumpkin-patch. Nope. That also was consistent with the fact that children could figure-out which foot was left and which was right and finally put their shoes on correctly — even proclaim it, get me to celebrate with them — and the next day totally forget. I could go on and on…

It’s become a dark comedy-bit for me to tell my friends and family that there was no net, positive output for the children and staff. If no harm was done, it certainly wasn’t an improvement over just being with family or in front of a television for the 3s and 4s — and much less beneficial than a proper kindergarten experience for the 5s. Detrimental to them, no doubt.

The bureaucracy of DHS, USCIS, and SEVP is only sometimes purposeful but that’s okay: my output is not the US immigration system. I jumped through my share of hoops while I was traveling and I was often in opposition to the impetus behind those regulations (I’m looking at you, Neo-colonialist Israel). But I cleared those bars just the same so I could continue my mission and fulfill myriad purposes. I’m not 4 years old: I remember my lessons and I knew why I was there. My output as an International Service Advisor will be for my students to maintain status so they can continue developing academically and professionally. I don’t care how dry the paperwork is or how ridiculous DHS is — how difficult the SEVIS system is to operate, when I’m certified to use it — the more convoluted and biased the immigration system, the more motivated I will be to come to work and wrestle with it. My weakness is I can’t persist when I lose a sense of purpose but I have a clear sense of purpose regarding international exchange programs.

My experience getting and maintaining Israeli visas taught me to just accept that immigration systems are broken and it’s not in my power to fix them. We game them. Whatever it takes to help qualified students maintain status.

My ethics are extra-seasoned

This is a real strength but I’m still chewing on it. I’m not sure how to pitch this one.

As usual, my active imagination played a role: I wondered what I would do if I learned a student was affiliated with a group that DHS considered “terrorist”. I make no secret of the fact that I find the word “terrorist” an unhelpful way to describe militants. I assume I would have legal obligations to report a student with such affiliations. Yet I see middle-Eastern militant groups at a significantly higher resolution, so to speak. I know that “terrorist” to DHS might be a political affiliation to that person…

This is where things get SUPER INTERESTING!

I used to joke around saying, “hey, besides Islam what’s the main difference between Hamas in Gaza and the G.O.P. in the United States? Hamas is willing to use revenue to provide healthcare.” It’s true. Hamas runs candidates in elections across the West Bank. They technically won more seats in the Palestinian Authority in 2006 but Fateh, Israel, and the US conspired to ignore the last election. Now, Hamas is ignoring the fact that there hasn’t been an election on the ‘national’ level since then, too, to stay in power. Still, they were willing to use what little revenue they had to build some clinics in 2012. The Hamas government in Gaza gave their members titles that confer political legitimacy: Prime Minister, President, Minister of Defense, etc. Like the IRA, Basque rebels, and similar groups, they are glad to take-on political legitimacy and forsake violence when it’s possible — when it’s not possible, they embrace violence. For that reason, I wouldn’t risk my own job for a Hamas party-member. The gray area is whether I would tell the student in question I was reporting them. If they were with al-qaeda or daesh, I wouldn’t say a word: I’d let ICE ambush them. Those groups don’t want political legitimacy, either not at all or not in the same way. They operate like cults. Hamas actively campaigns in public elections– even if I dislike them, I’m accustomed to vile characters being on my ballot. Know what I mean?

Think about the G.O.P. [Republican Party] since 2016! Vile.

Recently, several G.O.P. politicians made a point of posing for pictures with assault weapons in-hand (and families in-tow). Those photo-ops are CLASSIC example of gang or terrorist propaganda. It’s not subtle. Followers of the former president invaded the capitol building and current members of the G.O.P. have failed to condemn it. Hamas and the G.O.P. get closer to being morally equivalent with each passing year, mostly because Republicans are slowly decaying into militarism.

Nonetheless, I would have obligations to my university and SEVP. I would fulfill those obligations because I cannot imagine a student affiliated with such a group would be doing enough good for it to be worth losing my job protecting them. Plus, USA isn’t quite as bad as Israel in terms of villainizing civil-rights organizations. I just want to point-out I would be glad to see domestic students get deported for being Republican, in light of recent events. NONETHELESS, that’s not within my power and I’m not going to lose sleep if it never happens. It’s not worth it. Let them stay until they’re like al-qaeda, then we’ll throw them out.

I think I’m on a tangent. As far as my potential employers are concerned, I think I’ll just present a normal, quasi-naïve variety of ethics. I doubt they’re ready for my ‘seasonings’ and I’m willing to forsake some of my spice in exchange for some stability and the chance to support students who aren’t affiliated with questionable organizations.

The rest of my strengths will have to wait for the next segment. Sorry?

I have to admit, I am very thoughtful. I’m good at running scenarios in my mind. My brain loves to keep chewing on challenges and not settle right away when there are ambiguities.

1 thought on “Jump-Start Vol.5”

Thoughts? Please comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.