Friday, May 27th
Today is our last in Barbados and I’m both ready to be home, but not ready to leave the kids. All we had planned for the kids today was the debugging exercises and for them to finish their projects. We did three debugging exercises and they got them pretty quickly. After the debugging, which probably took like 30 minutes, we had the students finish their projects. Mrs. Murakami and I walked around and helped the students with their projects. They didn’t need much help because they knew what they were doing.
Today the kids had injections at 1 for going to secondary school so coming to school was an option. Our class today had most of the students attending, but our old class only had two students. The two students, even though they already took our classes, came to our class so they could play around on the XOs. They got to further their projects and make new projects. The boy made several games really quickly and the girl tried to expand her story. I was helping her because her characters were saying their lines but at the wrong time so we had to figure out how to get them in order. Towards the end of class, everyone had finished and saved on the flash drives so we took group photos and tons of selfies with the kids.
When it was time to leave, a ton of kids swarmed us because they didn’t want us to leave. One was doing my hair while another had my phone and was taking selfies on snapchat. When we had to leave, they were all hugging me and wouldn’t let me leave and one girl started crying. I told them I would call them when I got back to Ohio and that I would add them on Snapchat. It was really hard to leave because they wouldn’t let me go. Finally, the principal could see me struggling and she told the kids to let me go. They obviously didn’t listen because they really did not want me to leave. I finally got loose and got to the car.
We had originally planned to go to the beach across the street and hang out there until dinner since it was our last chance for the beach, but we were all so tired that we just went to our room and all fell asleep. I woke up at 4 and we had planned to go to dinner at 5:45 so we could catch the sunset before dinner. It was a little cloudy so we didn’t see it too well, but it was so bright that it was still really pretty. We had dinner at Just Grillin’ and I got the Caesar salad with roasted potatoes. I think Colleen pointed it out that the portions are always so big and she was wondering if people usually eat all of the food because it was too big for us. It was a really good final dinner in Barbados; we all had either virgin Pina coladas or virgin strawberry daiquiris.
We each decided since we have to get up at 4am the next morning to leave for the airport, that we would just pull an all nighter so we could sleep on the plane and during our 8 hour layover. We all packed during our all nighter and either watched Netflix or just chilled.
Barbados has been such an amazing experience. Throughout the trip I had been comparing it to my previous trip with OLPC to St. John. The two different trips, though very helpful, were completely different. This trip was so much more impactful than St. John. This trip I was able to teach alone and really get a feel of what it is like to be a teacher. In Barbados, kids wanted to come to class and they wanted to learn and that made us all feel really special. We showed the two men that came from the ministry of education that you can teach young kids how to code; they didn’t believe that kids that young would understand. These men that came in are now rewriting the curriculum for all the schools in Barbados to include what we have taught (to include our curriculum). Our curriculum that we used was simple and fun for the kids. We taught them how to code through a game which made them interested in coding. I always explain to people who ask what we do in Barbados that the kids are coding but it’s hidden within a game so they’re having fun and learning. It was amazing to see how much they loved Scratch and how intelligent they were. I could see that not only by looking at their projects, but also that fact that they raised their hands and knew the answers. In a matter of only a few classes with each class, they fell in love with us and me with them. You could really see the impact that we made with them and how much they didn’t want us to leave. They even asked us to come back for their graduation which is June 24th, I told them that I would facetime them or call them. It was such an amazing feeling knowing that within only three classes with them, that we made such a huge impact. I know I keep repeating the whole huge impact thing, but I just feel so great about it. I really want to go back and visit them sometime because I already miss them.
Friday, May 27
The One Laptop Per Child trip to Barbados was truly an unforgettable and amazing experience. During the school year, once a rotation we met for the class. We worked on creating lessons and getting familiar with scratch. By the end of the year, scratch was no longer foreign to me. Then we took the trip to Barbados. I was nervous about the trip but I knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience and I had to make the best out of it.
Arriving at the school on the very first day and observing everything and everyone, I was in complete shock. We watched the kids have morning announcements and prayer time. They were so respectful towards their teachers and towards us. They sang a song and it was so beautiful. The kids ran up to you and hugged you and said "Good Morning". They also always replied to a question with "Yes Miss". I was shocked by their good behavior and respectfulness.
Teaching the kids was something I've never experienced before. We had for the most part great days, expect for one day. The determination the kids had to learn was unbelievable! Also the kids were so intelligent and creative. Through teaching the kids, I learned about myself. We have made an impact on many things by teaching these kids. The person who create lessons for all the schools in Barbados watched us teach and took some of our techniques! We now will make an impact on the whole country with education. It is amazing how just a couple days of teaching can change things for the better.
St. Albans Primary School will forever be in my heart. They welcomed us with full arms and were very thankful. Their respectfulness was amazing. The love the kids had for us in just knowing us for a couple days was unbelievable. I will miss the faculty and students so much. Some of the kids wrote me letters thanking me and saying how glad they are that they met me. It really made me happy.
I love doing service, but after this experience my love for helping others grew even more. By just walking into the school, the kids had smiles on their faces. By teaching these kids simple and complex things, you could tell how thankful they were. Seeing a smile on their face, put one on mine. The feeling of making someone else happy really makes me so happy and that’s my favorite part about helping others. Something so small can mean so much to someone. I will forever remember this trip.
Friday, May 27
Today was our last day with the second class, all we did today was start with some debugging exercises which the kids struggled with then allowed the rest of our time with them for them to finish their projects. Yesterday, when seeing how the kids were working I was worried they didn’t understand and wouldn’t even get a project to turned in but today once we told them this was a graded assignment they got to work.
Traveling to Barbados to teach three different classes at St. Alban’s Primary School for not only my first time but the school’s first time was an honor to begin with, from our arrival to the school the kids were nothing but respectful and appreciative that we were there. In the first class taught all together the circumstances remained the same and through our whole stay with the other two classes. It was very exciting to me to see how excited the kids were to be learning new things we taught them and how creative they were when we let them do their own projects to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Barbados’ independence. Aside from the enjoyment from working with the kids and passing my knowledge on to them about the computers and programming I also loved getting to know about them and learning the differences between each one of them; like Nicholas, a boy who is supposed to be in class 3 but skipped to class 4, I could tell he was intelligent because he was one of the few to be able to go off on his own with the programming, but when sitting down and talking to him I learned even more and how he wanted to go to the Harrison secondary school which is the best one they can go to, and also just sitting down and talking to the kids and learning more about Barbados and the differences in life here.
Not only were the kids amazing and the faculty at the school but the island itself is just as amazing. Working from 9-12 most of the days allowed us a lot of free time to explore the side of the island we stayed on. We visited the two most popular caves on the island, Harrison Cave, and my favorite, Animal Flower Cave. We got to do a little shopping and accomplished the goal of visiting a lot of beaches, which we did by “beach hopping” on some of our days. Coming to Barbados and having the opportunity to teach and meet these kids and also explore the island is a moment I will never forget, and I am very grateful I was able to go on this trip!
Friday, May 27
As you read, we had quite the experience yesterday. 5 hours of the same subject with the same kids was too much, but it was necessary, given that they missed school on Wednesday. Turns out, many of them missed school today as well. They have a mandatory vaccination today, at 1PM, and though our class is over at noon, the administration said that if it was a hardship for the parents to bring their children to school for only a morning session, that the students could miss the whole day. In Emma and my class, that was about half the class. In Skylar and Colleen’s class, they were only missing three.
This turned out to be a blessing and a curse. I think some of the students in our class that knew they’d miss today shut down yesterday afternoon after they were told that we were going to start the project, then finish today. Some of them nobly tried to get something done, but one boy in our class shut down his computer and put his head on the desk and simply gave up. There was no convincing him that he should try to do the work. Those that did try, got something out of the experience, but it was far from ideal. I’m not sure if there is a lesson for us here. Would we have changed the lesson if we knew the entire class would miss the day? Probably. But we didn’t know until yesterday that we’d be losing so many students today. We simply couldn’t have planned for this. So, we make the most of the situation and move on. I will say, these CSG girls are really good about being adaptable and flexible. You heard the frustration, but they persevered. Truly admirable!
But, the really exciting thing is who did show up today. We heard many stories about kids who were planning to stay home, but came to our class JUST to work on their projects, and they knew that today was our last day here. Two kids came in from the OTHER group… the group we had for the first three days. They had intended to stay home, but came in just to work more with Scratch. One girl said her mom couldn’t bring her to school – that it would be too hard. But when she showed up, she had convinced her sister to come get her at noon. So many stories of kids coming in especially because we were there. If that doesn’t make you feel good, I just don’t know what could.
I’ve been mulling over a theory about highs and lows with a class. When we taught in St. John for 9 days in a row, there was always a serious dip in morale. I would tell the students ahead of time that about midway through the trip, they’d wish they were home. That they’d be saying “I can’t make it through another day, let alone make it through the whole week.” Sure enough, every year, the same thing happened. Usually it happened about midway through the trip after the high of the first days and before the high of knowing that there were only a few days left.
With fewer days to teach, I was worried that we wouldn’t be here long enough to get back up out of the hole. But now I’m wondering if we simply compressed the cycle. There was definitely a dip morale in each of our mini, three-day cycles. As I debriefed with Shea, we both noted that there is a similar dip during a normal school year. Usually in late January/early February. I always thought the dip was because of the winter weather. But now I’m wondering if there needs to be a dip simply because it’s human nature. I’m just glad that we came back out the other side.
As I wrote earlier, I’m already laying the groundwork for next year’s trip. I am excited to learn that we are heartily being welcomed back. Because of the press we received in the newspaper, our partner at the Ministry of Commerce and Trade has received multiple requests for us to come to their schools as well. Not only that, St. Albans has enthusiastically invited us back. The two gentlemen from the Ministry of Education were already planning for us to come back, AND are planning summer camps and other uses for the laptops throughout next year. Shea has even enthusiastically said “yes” to a round two! All of the adults who worked with us were excited about the possibilities, both local and national. I feel so honored to be at the right place at the right time with the right ideas to share. I’m excited about the potential.
This evening we had a celebratory dinner after a few sunset beach photos. We each talked about our favorite thing, our biggest surprise, our biggest challenge, etc. It was so nice to be able to speak about this experience with these lovely young women. They are amazing.
Tomorrow we fly home. It will be a VERY early morning (4AM) and a VERY long layover in Miami (8 hours), but we will have plenty of time to think about this great experience. (And we’ll have plenty of time for those TSA lines in Miami!!)
If you are interested in seeing some of the student’s projects, please visit the Scratch studio. You don’t need to download anything. But I warn you, some of the quizzes are really hard! I now know a whole lot of Barbados facts that I didn’t know a week ago! https://scratch.mit.edu/studios/2081396/
Signing off until next August…
Thursday, May 26
It was a struggle to get up this morning because I couldn’t fall asleep last night. We also had a really busy day yesterday. Today we packed our lunches because we are staying at the school all day and we knew that if we ate lunch with the students that we wouldn’t actually be able to eat because they would swarm us. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before leaving for the school. Today was the first day meeting the new class and the first day that Colleen, Skylar, and I split up. Mrs. Murakami and I went into one classroom and they were super rowdy today. They were really excited to be able to learn from us today.
This group, you could tell from the beginning that they were going to be a little difficult. They really liked to talk. I pretty much got to teach the whole class by myself today and Mrs. Murakami was there to help me if I missed anything. It was really tough keeping the kids interested because it was just me talking. We taught until 10:30, when the kids had a break, and then picked up again at 10:45. Usually at 12, we’re done teaching and we leave, but today we had another period to teach. This is because we got three days with the other class so we wanted to have three classes with the new class. So we taught until 3 today. It was super tiring especially since the kids got worse at the end of the day. A student told Colleen that after lunch they usually don’t have class and they are usually allowed to play and do whatever they want. That made sense because they were really anxious at the end of the day. A lot of the kids are near finishing their projects and I’m hopeful that tomorrow will be pretty easy.
After class, we got a few pictures with the kids and then headed to the duty free store to do some souvenir shopping. I bought a magnet, a shirt, and some little coin purses. After shopping, we went to the beach to hangout. We wanted to be able to watch the sunset, but once we got there we realized that the clouds were blocking the sun. We didn’t stay that long because when we jumped in the water, it was kind of cold. Tonight for dinner we had taco night. OMG IT WAS THE BEST DINNER WE’VE HAD. IT WAS AMAZING. SELENA MADE HER OWN TORTILLAS AND A MAYONAISE SPREAD WITH CABBAGE AND SALSA. I HAD TWO BECAUSE IT WAS SO GOOD. THEN SHE MADE CAKE! BUT NOT JUST ANY CAKE, SHE MADE CARROT CAKE AND PUT BEETS IN IT. OH MY, I WAS IN HEAVEN. I’ll need to work out when I get home, but for now I’m sleeping :)
Thursday, May 26
As we left the classroom today, I realized that I hadn’t managed to take any pictures. This demonstrates how busy we were as we started with a new class, split into two smaller teaching groups, and worked through the hardest parts of the lesson plans a second time. But it also illustrates the way I experienced the day. Until I paused to reflect, everything blurred together, without distinct images or memories from our five hours in the classroom.
I have to give the girls kudos for providing five hours of direct instruction (especially after learning that the St. Alban’s students are used to an unstructured afternoon). For me, a typical day of teaching involves three hours in front of a class and additional one-on-one work with students. I love teaching and am energized by it, but three hours is enough to ensure that I sleep soundly each night. Five hours is a long time. It’s a long time to disseminate information, process and respond to questions from students, engage in classroom management, maintain patience, and muster enthusiasm when your own energy is waning.
Parts of today were rough. When Colleen and Skylar left the classroom for morning break, they both looked a little shellshocked. Our new class of students was less focused and more talkative. We also had two students with significant learning differences. While the tiles in Scratch are in color coded groups (for instance, all the motion tiles are blue), students need to be able to read the text on each tile to assemble them correctly. Neither of these students was able to read.
While Skylar and Colleen were responsible for relaying the content, I did what I could to help. I explained a coordinate plane and the x- and y-axes when they both looked like they needed a moment to catch their breath, and I aided with classroom management, which was sometimes something as simple as sitting next to an off-task boy who was distracting his neighbors and telling him that I would stay there until he could show me that he had accomplished something. My classroom management approach usually favors the carrot over the stick. As the kids lost focus after lunch, I told them that if they could write ten questions for their quizzes, Colleen or Skylar would teach them how to make a scoreboard.
There were many questions that I had to defer to Colleen and Skylar, though I was able to answer more questions than I expected. And that is a tribute to Emma, Colleen, and Skylar’s teaching. Less than a week ago, I didn’t even know what Scratch was! As we talked about successes and struggles over dinner, I was reminded of other signs of their extraordinary teaching. We had one girl who could quietly but confidently answer every debugging puzzle we showed her, and we had a boy who was so excited by coding that he (without being asked) moved around the room to help his classmates. It is easy to focus on the students we did not reach, but I hope that as the girls reflect back on today, they also remember the dozen students who were excitedly coding, eager to see what their sprite would do next.
Thursday May 26th, 2016:
Today was our full day of teaching. I had a hard time falling asleep last night because I was nervous. This morning we woke up, ate and packed our lunches! Then we were off to school! We arrived at the school, and of course all the kids would greet us very respectfully with a "Good morning". We separated into our classroom; with Ms. Murakmi and Emma in one and Skylar, Ms. Davis and I in another. We got into our new classroom and met the kids. We knew we may have rough days teaching, although we had not had one yet until today. We went through the same process as with our other class: name tags, going to get the computers from the storage room, then doing our lesson plan. A little ways into the class time, it became frustrating for many reasons. One being that the kids would have small conversations while one of us were talking and then another being that they would not listen or follow along. I had never been in a situation of teaching a class before like this so I wasn't sure if this was normal, but I felt like I was losing patience quickly and almost walked out of the room. The kids teacher told them to stop making side conversations and listen, but then walked out of the room. It wasn't even 10:30 yet and I was feeling like giving up, but I knew I couldn't. I missed our old class. We had a 15 minute break and then started back up. Every now and then when I felt like I couldn't do it anymore, I just sat in the chair for a little and then got back to teaching, it seemed to help.
Lunch time finally came and we walked to the beach for lunch and ate and get a break. Lunch was from 12-1. We put observations together and came to the conclusion that two of the kids couldn't read. So we talked about how we could help them more for the afternoon. Reading is a major part of scratch because the titles contain words. We said we would take turns sitting in between them, therefore they would make improvements and learn more. Sitting and eating lunch was a much needed break. Emma and Ms. Murakami were having a better teaching day with us, but we all talked and said we would finish the afternoon out strong.
1 o'clock approached quickly and it was time to start class again. The kids teacher came back in the room and the kids listened more and didn't talk as much. If they were disrespectful, the teacher yelled at them. We explained the Barbados project and they started on it. Many of the kids chose to do quizzes, which I am fine with because it was a better way to talk about Barbados. One issue I saw was a lot of spelling errors. Their teacher also noticed a lot of spelling errors and wasn't happy. Hopefully tomorrow we can have them fixed a lot of the errors. The two hours in the afternoon went by fast, thankfully! The afternoon seemed a lot better than the morning, whereas Emma and Ms. Murakami said they had a bad afternoon, but good morning. Most of the kids got a good start on the projects and are starting to understand scratch more! They also are listening a little better.
I forgot to add this-- but when we were walking back from the beach, the kids from the school could see us and started shouting "yay yay yay". It just was a very happy feeling. The smile we put on the kids faces but just walking back to the school. Its incredible! The kids and staff are so respectful and friendly. The environment is something I've never experienced before. I received a couple letters from students that say "you're my best friend" or "thank you for teaching me". I will be keeping those forever!
After school we stopped at a beach for a little but it wasn't sunny so we didn't stay long. I am so tired, completely exhausted. Started off a rough day, but it got better. Tomorrow we will just finish up their projects and then its time to head back home early Saturday morning.
Wednesday, May 25
You get all the facts by reading Emma and Skylar’s posts below. You also get a bit of the anticipation of tomorrow’s challenges. Doubly challenging because (1) it will be such a long day (5 hours of teaching), and (2) we are splitting into two groups, with less support from each other. I, too, am a bit nervous about how it will go. Even an expert teacher would have a difficult time keeping kids engaged for 5 hours. Tonight’s plan even included some contingencies if and when the kids start to get antsy! But these three girls have been so amazing every day that I know they will be great. If you’ve been reading this blog, you get the sense of how special they are. Every day they impress me. They make me so proud. And watching them, it’s really no wonder why I keep doing this trip seven years running. If you could see what I see, you’d do this too!
For my part, I am already wrapping things up. I have to plan time to get the laptops back to the main office at the Ministry of Trade and Innovation, make sure everyone knows what time we need to get up on Saturday for our 4AM (ouch!) departure time, upload projects, communicate to the school where to find the projects, start to plant the seeds for next year’s visit, let our host and caterer know that we plan to be back, etc. Not having even left yet, I’m planning for next year.
Sometimes I forget how special our work is because I get caught up in the logistics. Where do we need to be, what do we need when we get there, and what will we be doing. Shea helps put everything back into perspective, and helps me re-focus on the big picture of what we’re doing and why. I love her outsider’s observations. If you haven’t read her posts yet, read them. She has the best posts of all of us. English teachers sure do know how to write!
Two days to go!
Oh, by the way. Shea and I walked down to the beach to see the sunset today. Spectacular!
Wednesday, May 25th
I got to sleep in until 9:30 today and it was beautiful. However, I did get up earlier than the other girls so I could make breakfast for everyone. I made chocolate chip pancakes and eggs for everyone and then we all sat down to eat. (The plus side of cooking is that I don’t have to clean the dishes afterwards ;)) During breakfast we decided that we wanted to visit the South end of the island and that we also wanted to shop. I started to feel a little sick and I figured it was because of how much time I spent in the sun yesterday and that maybe I was dehydrated. I still wanted to go out with the group so when we got to the beach I rented an umbrella and chair to lie under so I didn’t get burned anymore. Ms. Davis, Ms. Murakami, and I all stayed under the shade today. I took a nap and afterwards felt much better. After the beach we tried to find the mall, but after driving around in circles we decided to give up. We’ve decided that we are going to the mall tomorrow to try and find souvenirs. We came home and we all were pretty tired so we took showers and just laid around in our room until dinner. Tonight for dinner we had pizza and sweet and sour chicken. It was so good and Selena told us that tomorrow night is taco night! I’m super excited. After dinner, we all met upstairs on the balcony/porch area right outside Skylar, Collen and my room. Since we had already figured out with the last group of students what we want to teach, all we had to do tonight was go over the plan again. We added a little bit of notes to some sections where we knew the kids needed more help on or that it was too easy for them. We went through all three days and added notes. After the meeting we all went to bed because we have to wake up early tomorrow. I’m excited to be by myself tomorrow and teach the kids. Wish me luck! :)
We had a day off today because the kid’s at the school were off campus for a dance they were in. We woke up at 9:30 and Emma made us pancakes and eggs we headed out around 11:30 to go to the southern part to a beach called “Miami Beach”, which was about a half an hour drive. We got lost but ended up at a very nice beach we ended up staying there for the majority of the afternoon. Before leaving to go souvenir shopping we stopped at Mr. Delcious which was just a food truck near the beach to get snacks because we hadn’t had lunch. We left the beach around 3:30 to go shopping and I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up we were lost, looking for the shop that the GPS was supposed to be taking us to but ended up not existing. At this point it was raining, and we were all ready to go home and rest some more so we headed home and decided to try shopping after our long day we are going to have tomorrow. Today was a chill day and we did not do much but tomorrow is going to be very hectic. Colleen and I are teaching one of the classes by ourselves for a full day, I am excited to see the kids again and meet new kids because we will be working in a different room but I am nervous to see how it will go with just us two and Ms. Davis, without the assistance of Mrs. Murakami.
Every day we will have two students and one teacher blog. Emma, the senior, will blog daily, the two juniors and the two teachers will alternate. Please check back often!