Last week I was giving a presentation at work for the batch of new students enrolling in school. My portion of their orientation day is not exciting or encouraging, to say the least. I basically stand in front of them for 20 minutes and explain the consequences of getting poor grades and dropping classes. Being a small, caucasian, 25-year old woman who could pass for 19 seems to add salt to the wound, as the group is usually comprised of African American single mothers in their 40′s. They don’t particularly love hearing that I will be the one to put them on academic probation , suspension, or even dismissal from school.
To lighten the mood during my presentation every six weeks, I have started doing a team building activity. Yep, that’s right. A team building activity. Could I be more cliche? Probably not. But there is a reason that companies, camp counselors, and teachers use them- they work! Personally I think they mainly work because those participating suddenly have a common enemy- the person hosting the team building activity. They can all, as a group, start making fun of the leader’s mousey voice and corny jokes. BAM! They are laughing, joking, and instantly have a sense of community. So to benefit my students, I put myself out there as the common enemy. You’re welcome.
The past few times that I have run the team building activity, it has gone great. The game we play is called “two truths and a lie.” Each person has to tell the group 3 things about themselves, two of which are true and one is a lie. I always tell them to come up with truths that sound absurd and a lie that would be easy to believe. The group then has to try and guess which one is the lie. If they guess it, they win. If the person stumps them, they lose. It’s easy, allows people to share things about themselves, and usually gets everyone laughing with some of the truths and lies that are shared.
This past Friday, people were not laughing. In fact the whole room fell silent after a woman decided that one of her factoids should be “I was raped.”
REALLY?? Sitting in a room with 23 strangers before the first day of school seems like a good place to share that you have been raped?
I held my breath so as not to bust out laughing. Not because I think rape is funny but because suddenly I had 46 eyes staring at me, waiting to see my next move. Was this a test? Had the whole group collectively decided to play a prank on the Registrar? I held out hope. I thought maybe she has a sick sense of humor and the rape claim is her lie.
That would have been too easy. Instead, my coworker and I had to ask to the group “okay…um, raise your hand if you think that it’s a lie that she has been, um…..raped.”
Not surprisingly, no hands went up. People stared forward avoiding eye contact with each other. In fact nobody raised their hands for any of her answers, everyone was scared to vote. The woman, with a bizarre sense of pride, said to the class “I was raped, that wasn’t the lie.”
“Okay great job, you stumped the class. You win a free session with a psychiatrist starting right now. Just go, please go get help” is what I wanted to say to the poor woman. Instead, I will keep an eye on her while she is at school. I gave a heads up to the Director of Education that she may need some extra attention. I will check up on her to see how things are going and recommend some good counselors in the area. And next time I might skip the team building activity.