(from last Wednesday)

Some days are tougher than others. Pilots start with smiles all around. Kids are happy; adults are happy. What an opportunity, what a great group! About a week in, it’s all about endurance. With a compressed schedule, without much break, the good feelings get replaced with hard work. Everyone’s still enthused, but setbacks and exhaustion and doubt become more obvious. It happens in every pilot.

Cheerleading and encouragement are critical to success, perhaps the most important task of all. Even if you’ve got nothing left in the gas tank, you’ve got to dig inside and find a way to keep people’s spirits up. What this often amounts to is strict conservation of your own emotional energy, being as careful with it as Haitians are with water. Never spill a drop. During the classes, I take frequent breaks, lying flat on wooden benches, studying the corrugated ceiling for interesting details. I’m still listening; I’m available to help. But I’m saving up my enthusiasm for the moments that need it most: talking to the class, greeting everyone, encouraging people as I walk around.

We started with Robert from Matènwa teaching the children Lesson 7 (Variables). He was absolutely great: enthusiastic, funny, supportive. The mentors worked with the children well, though fewer had shown up. Seems every children class is missing a handful of mentors, which hasn’t been much of a problem, though I do worry about the lost opportunity for them to review.

Robert was understandably anxious about teaching the whole lesson, since we had only briefly covered sliders the day before, and hadn’t covered the joystick at all. When we reached the slider part, I took over, but again we had spent too much time on X/Y Cartesian stuff, so I was only able to show the slider to the kids.

After the class, Chris told me that many of the mentors hadn’t eaten lunch and wanted to just review sliders from lesson 7 and go home. We could make up lesson 8 another time. Having just experienced a many-lesson day on Saturday, I wasn’t willing at first, asking her, “Why didn’t the mentors eat,” etc. Though I could see in their eyes that a lesson wouldn’t stick, the prospect of further slipping bothered me. My emotional energy was at a low point, so I wasn’t as able to let the little stuff go.

I did eventually, starting the sliders review with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. Showing the steps again and again, the group seemed to get it. They seemed happy to have overcome their own exhaustion and confusion, and happier still that we broke early. After the breakdown talk, I went straight to my bed and collapsed.

Know when to give up trying and go to sleep.

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