(from Friday)

Each day the program at Petite Riviere is getting stronger, and I know the mentors feel it too.

After a successful tanning day and a difficult but enjoyable conversation with some Red Cross volunteers, I headed to school with Bill and Benaja in time for our 12:15 mentor planning meeting.

The planning meeting was a little less organized than we’d hoped. The mentors kept going into the students’ classroom because a lot of the students were already there. They seemed more interested in sitting with the students than in planning, but eventually we got them all to sit down. Then Bill, Benaja and I told them that this meeting was theirs to plan so we sat outside and waited for them to finish. We watched as they laughed to each other and seemed to joke around. We sincerely hoped that they weren’t slacking but had to give them space.

Class was slow to start. We had found a second empty classroom and divided the children among those classrooms. At first, Michena started to get pretty frustrated. I think she is used to carrying a lot of the responsibility of Petite Riviere’s program on her shoulders, so when we essentially took it from her she had a difficult time coping. She was used to teaching all 40 students at once with little help, in a single classroom. But this is not how the pilot is supposed to be conducted- nor is it the best way to conduct it. She resisted dividing the class into two but finally we convinced her. We put 10 of the best students in each class so that they were mixed equally.

Group 1 (Michena, Emmanuel, Cassandra and another new mentor whose name I have temporarily forgotten…Alan is also in this group but he wasn’t here today) rearranged the desks so that they were in a circle in the classroom. Group 2 (Jean Jean, Antoine, Olsen, Sheila and Pepe, who wasn’t here) put all the desks facing each other in a sort of dinner table fashion. It was interesting giving the groups their own space to work because they began to take their own responsibility for things. There weren’t enough multiplugs for all students to charge their computers but suddenly Antoine emerged with a couple of extras that he dug up from the school building. We were just a few plugs short for everyone.

It was maybe 1pm before class really started and the kids got Etoys going, though half an hour delayed is much better than yesterday. And then the magic began. Both classes went quite smoothly. Antoine and Jean Jean’s class seemed to breeze through things. Michena’s class had a little more difficulty but was certainly much smoother than yesterday. Everyone reviewed Lesson 3 (from yesterday). When class was over, Lesson 4 was pretty much completed in both groups. Bill, Benaja and I (the three Bs) were very pleased.

We met for our mentor meeting afterward. Unlike the Darbonne mentors, which sometimes had difficulty settling down and actually writing, these mentors got started right away and wrote a number of pages. When we began to talk, they had plenty to say. They were happy with the way class went today. They thought things were much smoother and the students were understanding much better. They mentioned that they were frustrated with the school’s principal, who seems to think that the computers belong to him. Sometimes he comes to class and takes attendance of the mentors. Then you won’t see him again for days. He tries to take ownership while also disappearing regularly. It seemed all the mentors were pretty jaded from his ways. We decided to schedule a meeting with him on Monday. We would invite him to watch our class AS A GUEST. After that, he’d come to our mentor meeting and we’d talk about how class is going, listen to his feedback and offer suggestions to him. At first, some mentors ate this idea up while others weren’t so sure. But Bill and I convinced them that you need to get the principal on your side in order to move mountains. You need to show him you can do this yourself!

Like Darbonne, the Petite Riviere mentors chose two of them to come to the class every morning and make sure the computers are charging so that they don’t run out of battery during class. We do have chargers to use, but not enough for every student, so making sure the computers are charged ahead of time is a good way for us to make sure things run smoothly. Students are instructed to leave their computers in the principal’s office first thing in the morning when they get to school. Then, when we have class just after school ends (at noon), the computers will be charged and ready to go.

After class, we all walked home together. Michena braided my hair. It was nice to have some “girl time” because I know that she’s been frustrated with the way class is going- really used to doing things by herself and not used to having to work with a group. And she’s good at what she does- the problem is that she needs to share her experience with the other four mentors, too! So we sat down and she braided my hair really beautifully, with various braids along the top going diagonally across my head (like Alicia Keys, she and some other people said). We joked and laughed with each other and it was nice to take some of the stress off. In class we are both pretty tough. But outside of class we’re great friends.

Antoine came by to see my new hairstyle. He brought mangos and after dinner we all sat around sucking mangos and talking shop. Today’s subject was whales, and exactly how much plankton do they eat? There was maybe a group of five or six of us debating the subject.

And then we turned in after another exciting day.

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