People ask us often, “How do you choose your schools?”   I’d like to say, “Through a careful vetting process after an exhaustive search”, but it’s rarely like that at all.  I’d say that our schools find us, usually in the most improbable ways.

Case in point: after dancing up a storm to RAM last November, I happened to meet Richard Morse, leader of the band, at the airport.  We were on the same flight.  I compliment him on his incredible music and the conversation steers to laptops and children.  “You know, my mother has a school,” he says.  Two months later, I’m staying at his hotel and before you know it, he arranges for a driver to bring Beth and I to his mom’s school.

The drive up the mountain was a reminder of my November trip, as I traveled the same road many times.  Petionville is noticeably different than Delmas.  When we reached the school, which was on the side of a very steep hill, there were no children, as fear of election violence was still abundant.  We soon met Mr. Morse’s mother and she’d showed us her school.

She’s an absolutely delightful woman.  Her staff seems quite good as well.  I told them all about the laptop and the Waveplace program while we sat in children’s chairs.  Usually the best indication of whether a school is suitable for a pilot is to what degree people nod their head enthusiastically when I mention key benefits to our approach.  This group seemed very, very interested.  At this early stage, they seem a good match.

Back at AMSAI, we set up the chairs, leaving lots of room for our forward-by, turn-by antics.  In our preclass trainer meet, I asked who was going to “be silly” and they all laughed and said, “you are.”   I pushed back a bit, saying I’d love to see them try, and Elizabeth agreed to try, “though it won’t be as good.”

Elizabeth was very good.  The children seemed to have fun, though without knowing more Creole it’s hard for me to say whether they understood the point of the activity.  Once the laptop lesson began, there was considerable confusion as people reached a common starting spot.  I had suggested they skip sketches altogether and start with a star object from the supply bin, but the trainers decided to use sketches from the journal instead.   I sat back and watched the clock while a good twenty minutes was lost getting everyone to the same place.

Talking with Sarita about it, I decided that today was the day that I took back the reins.  I had known from the start that I would need to lead more, as the material gets progressively harder.  Our trainers are new, they’re not quite level 3 mentors yet, so it was inevitable.  They had been doing so great up until this point that I was hoping to be “useless” a little while longer.

Instead, I took charge of the mentor class.  “Attention, everyone do this.  Here’s some context.  Now do this.  Now this.”   Drill sergeant Tim was back in action, barking out points and challenges while the trainers walked around helping everyone keep up.

At the end of the lesson, the group discussed things a bit and the general consensus was that they liked my teaching very much and preferred this approach.  For myself, though, I was disappointed.  Do this, do this, do this is a very rote way, though likely much more familiar to the mentors as a means for learning something.

Back at the hotel, I was exhausted and deflated, feeling like I had done exactly the wrong thing, setting a rote tone again, though knowing that the material was getting harder now, practically making into necessary.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll manage to ease back a bit and let them explore more.  Ah well.

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