Monday the 20th started with the usual scramble at the Oloffson, though this time it was for the first day of the workshop.  I had told everyone that we would leave at 8:00, which would give us an hour to get there and an hour to set up.  As always happens, someone is late, or something gets remembered at the last minute, or people take too much time discussing logistics, etc.  We left after 8:30.

I had of course mapped a route out using Google at the hotel, but while driving I second-guessed myself and got turned around, wasting another fifteen minutes.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but on a first day you really want to set the right tone.  You want to show up early.  After driving up Avenue John Brown, we arrived in Pétion-Ville, though I again made a mistake by remembering the Acacia cross-street, not the Mercy Corps one.  We parked in the wrong place while Michena asked people for directions.  I finally got a Skype IM to Kyle who set me straight.  We drove into the tiny gated parking lot, directed to a spot under a fruit tree (branches scraping the roof ), and we rushed upstairs to the workshop room at 9:30.

The team set about positioning tables and chairs (always a challenge), but wait!  We forgot the power strips.  Mercy Corps offered to send a driver to the Oloffson to get them, which was truly above and beyond.  The last class wouldn’t have been possible without it.  People started arriving and sitting.  It was a packed, packed room, with hardly any room to move around.  At 10:00, we started the workshop on time.   I began talking expectations, philosophy, and laptop.   One of the groups came late and I started over a bit.  We then handed out the laptops and they started exploring.  With each of the four trainers watching a specific group, we had the leader-helper thing going pretty quickly, pretty smoothly.

One of the best changes that came out of the February workshop was giving the mentors time to fumble around and explore things on their own without telling them anything.  We had them explore Sugar activities without any guidance other than the view-switching keys.  I later gave my “Confusion is Good” speech, which went over very well, with only a few suspicious looks.  Throughout the workshop, people kept saying “Confusion is Good,” usually as a joke when something was going wrong, but still, it’s an important message to get across.

After the first class, we moved downstairs to the larger room and set up for the children’s class.  With all the mentors and children, we needed 47 chairs, most of which came from our room upstairs.  A train of chairs and tables was flowing past as we discussed the next issue … some schools had more than 5 mentors, which was unfair to others.  I spoke to one partner, who agreed that one of his group would stay home the next day.  Two other schools had to send someone home.  It always happens that extra people come, though four of the five groups had extras this time.

The children assembled outside and I told the adults to hide their laptops so we could do a big reveal to the kids.  The kids came in and sat down, with each having their own mentor to sit next to, some of them two.  Lunch was served, garbage collected, and we started at 1pm sharp.  Amazing.   I spoke to the children a bit about becoming computer programmers, then asked them if they’d like to see the laptop.  I brought mine out and the kids all went “ooh”, then after a quick demo we handed one to each child.

Now you’d think that my favorite part is giving out the laptops, but after having done this a couple dozen times, that’s no longer the case.  My favorite part is watching mentors work with children for the first time.  By pairing an adult with a child directly after the first adult class, we’re giving the mentors a chance to use their new knowledge right away as they teach the children.  What was an abstract lesson upstairs becomes a real one immediately as it becomes more relevant, as seen through the eyes of an amazed child.

After 90 minutes of exploration and talk, I brought everyone outside to do my “tell an alien how to get a chair” exercise, trying to drive home the point that you need to be very explicit with computers, that “computers are very stupid … you gotta tell them everything.”  The kids and mentors had a good time.  My larger point was to show the mentors how we use kinesthetic activities to engage the children.

After the children left, we again played “move the chairs” to go back upstairs again, though later asked ourselves why we did this.  The third class, which introduced Etoys, was pretty tough, mostly because everyone was tired.  Our brains were full.  As the week progressed, we all vowed that we would never again agree to three classes per day.  It’s just too much for everyone.

As we left, I told Makeda, our translator, how much I appreciated having her translate for me.  It makes a big difference to have an enthusiastic translator that appreciates and understands the program.  She was easily the best so far.

Back at the Oloffson, we had our team breakdown meeting.  We all agreed to try to hold all the classes downstairs.  A large concern was the length of the day.  “When can we rest?” asked Zo.  The trainers weren’t happy with the 8 to 6 schedule.  I reminded them that the three long days were instead of Saturdays, and that they would be paid the same as if they had worked two extra days.  We also agreed to take breaks between classes, rather than go nonstop as we did that day.

All in all, it was an exhausting, and productive day.  Best of all, I made it through without passing out from Sunday’s sickness.

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