Days before I had to leave to Saint John for the One Laptop per Child trip, I was beyond anxious. I caught myself in an overwhelming pool of “what-if’s.” I thought I was crazy to think I could actually leave the comforts of my own home and travel to an island to teach a group of children. Looking back, I have to say these past two weeks, although they forcefully pushed me out of my comfort zone, truly gave me one of the best experiences to remember.
From surprise cockroaches to flooded bathrooms, this trip kept me on my toes. I was never an outdoorsy person to begin with, so the nights were quite challenging. Each day we encountered a new critter. The first night kicked off with a scorpion in our room and a grasshopper that landed on one of our heads. In all honesty, the bugs worried me more than anything else, but I was not going to let that destroy all my hope. The real token of this trip was the unique opportunity of working with the kids. At first, I felt very awkward, but as Ms. Murakami said, I had to understand that we were like a breath of fresh air for these students, who don’t receive individual attention very often. I found that they enjoyed one-on-one teaching and being able to work at their own pace. Creativity isn’t emphasized very often, and I was honored to motivate my group of students to develop their own unique project ideas. It was amazing to see how fast someone could learn if they truly wanted to.
Joshua, an eighth grade student who I worked with, showed me parts of Scratch that I never even knew. Janus and Lionel from the first fourth grade class were the sweetest kids I had ever met. At first, I could tell they were a little shy to speak with me (as was I!), but toward the end of the week, they began to open up to me. I learned about their families, brothers and sisters, and paintball competitions. Le’Kayla from the second fourth grade class was another one of the fantastic students I worked with. In many ways she was like me: quiet at first but wild toward the end. Her drawings were stunning, and she constantly had new ideas for her project! It was very hard to say goodbye to her. When I saw her sparkling eyes tear up, something inside me deflated. I knew she took a piece of my heart with her. Lastly, the fifth grade students, having been taught by last year’s group, were the greatest handful! It took more motivation to put their creativity to work, but I was very happy with their results. The mazes were very colorful and completed successfully. I will never forget their funny comments and smiling faces.
As I said before, the last day was difficult. I kept reminding the kids that their futures were bright and that they could do anything they wanted to as long as they put their bright ideas into action. This trip taught me two very important lessons: 1) that I should truly value the hard work that my teachers put in to make me who I am today; and 2) how far a little motivation can go. These students, who lived with completely different conditions than me, needed support. They needed someone to tell them not to give up and to explore more. I am so honored that I could take part in extending the outlooks of these students who can go so far. All in all, these two weeks proved transformative both for myself and the kids. I could not be more grateful for this eye-opening experience.