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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

10 Days...CRAZY!

Class doesn't go badly today, woohoo! We did the teacher class first because students are coming to class extremely late (a feature of our summer program, NOT of our regular academic year program) and we don't feel like getting mad at them since it is vacation and all, so we had our teacher class from 2-3:30 and our student class from 3:30-5.

At the teacher class we learn Lesson 8, tests. The teachers are picking up things pretty well. They have a problem with listening -- it drives me crazy -- they'll just drift away into their project and then go "I can't do it" and it will become very obvious that the reason why they can't do it is because they weren't listening when I was explaining. Oh well. The content isn't easy and they're definitely picking it up. I explained the joystick today and was actually pretty surprised at how quickly they got it, after briefly reviewing the slider from Friday. Looks like the teachers just need to simmer and then they're good to go.

Did Lesson 6 with the students. It went well. For some reason the teachers didn't show the kids the "bounce" feature- they're having trouble with this idea of following a lesson plan and not doing things on their own or by memory. This is sort of hilarious because...they basically suck at following a lesson plan...but they are DAMN good teachers. The way they explain things to the students, I can only wish I had explained it myself that way.

We already marked the five "prize" computers so that they never get mixed up with ones that belong to the school. They have stars drawn on them and literally say "Prémio" ("prize") right on the front. We're sort of dangling them in the kids' faces and it's working like a charm. There's been no stealing, the kids are anxious to start writing their stories, and some of them have even started crafting story ideas at home. Thank goodness for contests.

Doing a lot of tying up loose ends and the like during my last 10 days in São Tomé (already, I know!). Tomorrow I am meeting the Ministry of Education with Professora Arlete and potentially Professora Mirian to talk about getting the Ministry to support our computer program and work with partner organizations to get us enough computers for everyone at the school. Seeing Professora Arlete with her students, and now volunteering to come with me to the Ministry, makes my heart swell. It wasn't easy to convince her to give this computer program a chance. She was interested but easily frustrated. She had lots of questions and she wanted to do things her way at the beginning. It took a bit to get her to warm to me. And now sometimes I feel she is my closest ally.

So tomorrow we're heading to the Ministry of Education to have the Talk about the livelihood of this program. Wish me luck.

Other loose ends we're tying up:
  • Talked to an electrician today about using a big battery to power the school's wifi when there's no electricity. Apparently it can be done and the electrician is going to do some shopping and write me up a receipt before installing it at the school. Yay for being able to use the Internet even when there's no electricity! That's almost as good as getting a generator.
  • Brought the 30 computers I brought from the USA to school today, as well as various extra batteries, a couple of broken computers and about 30 mini mice. Now we have a very nice pile of 130 computers, mice, batteries, chargers, adapters, power strips and whatever else stuffed under one of the tables in the computer lab (which has about 10 desktop computers arranged along the walls and couldn't be bigger than a closet). So our next solution is to buy a big metal cabinet with shelves so that we can store the computers there. If it's a big enough cabinet, we can simply lock the cabinet and put it in one of the classrooms (which are unlocked) rather than having to rely on it staying secure in the director's office. Will probably do some shopping tomorrow.
  • Made another appointment with Izilda at the US Embassy to see if they'll pay for us to have another summer program next year (and also pay my airfare so that I can go and check in on things too) for Friday. Wish me more luck.
  • Going to stop by the Portuguese Embassy to say hello and do some networking, since I used to work at the Portuguese Embassy in the USA.
More things...certificates are all signed by the director and stamped with the school's seal. That's good. Now just to put the names in for the students. Still need to pay the teachers. Interviewing the kids as much as I can for some good videos to get support. Just saw one of my old English students from last year tonight. THAT was a blast from the past!! It was great to see him! Nothing else going on off the top of my head. Life is good and I'm already missing São Tomé!

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Donate $200 and you will be paying for a computer for at least FIVE very special children at São João (as estimated computer life is five years). Thanks so much!

Want your donation to be tax-deductible? Send a check to STeP UP with OLPC in the memo. Then mail it to:

Eric McClafferty
Kelley and Drye
3050 S St. NW, #400
Washington, DC 20007