The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.
Many interviews, both for jobs and for celebrities, feature this question: “If you could eat lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” The answers given can reveal much about the interviewee and can break the persistent, tenacious ice that dogs corrections training.
When applied to corrections training, this exercise is an excellent way for participants to speak with authority on a subject they know well, their own personal opinions. It is also an excellent segue into a professionalism module which explores positive and negative attributes and characteristics that motivate admiration.
This icebreaker features very little in the way of materials (easel, paper and markers) and is an instructor/student driven undertaking. It is a six step process:
There are a few cautions with this exercise:
- Work on the negative – Mention a bad quality to the audience. One could use ‘liar,’ for example. Give an example of how someone lied to you and the consequences of the action (immediate results and long term distrust, for example). Then obtain input from the audience. This should be easy, as it is less difficult to start with the negative than the positive. Have the scribe list 10 negative attributes on the easel paper.
- Seek the positive . Offer the audience one positive attribute, ‘hard-working’ for example. Give an example of a hardworking individual and the consequences of the action (immediate results and long term productivity, for example). Then obtain input from the audience. Have the scribe list 10 negative attributes on the easel paper.
- Make a wish list for lunch partner – You now have 20 attributes and a conceptual base built by the students. Tape the pages in a conspicuous place and move on to the main question: “If you could eat lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” The trainer would start with his or her own example. “I would like to eat lunch with Theodore Roosevelt because I am sure the stories that he would tell would be fascinating.” Then the choice of verbal or written solicitation is up to the Trainer. I prefer both, actually. In this case, I distribute the question on paper and when participants have finished, I solicit oral responses as a sharing exercise. Have a scribe record these on easel paper.
- Seek themes – First ask why each person was selected. What in particular is the reason that you’d enjoy lunch with whomever you selected? Then the class, led by the instructor, looks for common themes. Ask these questions: How many of your selected lunch partners are living? How many different periods of history are represented? What is the female to male ratio? Are there any military, political, sports, literary or celebrity personalities? Are there any relatives?
- Compare – the list of persons to eat lunch with to the positive and negative attributes list. Look for trends. How many of the personalities were selected that have traits listed on either compilation of attributes.
- Segue – Using your own style, move into the professionalism module. For example, Qualities and circumstances contribute to who we are and what we do. All of us are potential heroes and potential villains at work. How well we fit into our work life will depend on our qualities and actions. Let’s look at some fundamental considerations for our work personas in “Professionalism in Corrections.”
The question, “If you could eat lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” seems simple on the face of it. Yet it allows us to offer glimpses of ourselves and lets us assess our motivations for admiration. And it is a great segue into professionalism modules. So, who would you most like to eat lunch with?
- Opinions may be strong and sometimes obnoxious. Yet it is important to share information while keeping a lid on the class. A strong, tactful moderator is necessary.
- Keep the group on track, as it is easy to meander.
- Keep heckling between colleagues to a minimum.
- Each answer, no matter how much of a joke it may seem, must be taken seriously. If there is a joker in the group, record the answer. The serous responses will balance out the jokes.
- Do not push for answers from unwilling introverts. It is not always easy for everyone to share in front of a group.
Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.
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