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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mr. Computer Man

I'm walking down River Road, just past my school attachment, as the sun is setting. People are outside, enjoying the cool of the afternoon, and kids are running in the streets, playing with old, broken toys you'd think belong in the garbage. This is a pretty impoverished, working-class neighborhood whose rum-shop patrons and vagrants appear intimidating at first glance. Second glance, too, actually. I say "Good afternoon" anyway, a sign of good will, and smile at the children. As I'm walking, though, a soft, child's voice sings in my ears from behind: "Compuuuuter man! Mr. Compuuuuter man!" I look back and it's one of my little 3rd grade students from the Methodist school. I didn't recognize her without the green and yellow uniform. I smile warmly and we talk for a minute before I continue on my way. A few minutes later, I hear another child's voice from across the street yell, "Mr. Jon!" I smile and wave. By the time I reach the end of the road, I've had so many shout-outs, there are tears in my eyes.

My program at the Methodist school has taken on a life of its own. As I just alluded to, computer class is super popular. Kids fight just to get a chance to come in during lunch, and I've had to try different strategies to pacify the situation. With my counterparts (the principal and her assistant), we've hashed out a schedule for me to come in twice a week, teaching three classes a day. The curriculum has largely been left up to me to develop, so I've included lessons on typing, Microsoft Word (we don't have the internet yet), and give ample time for the kids to simply explore. Since I'm only there twice a week, I let the kids come back during lunch- my only break. Aside from the stress of dealing with a mob of kids attacking my door (which, as I said, I'm slowly solving), the lunch period gives me a chance to really see what the kids want to do on the computers. While some do play games, there's always a few that load up the typing program and redo a lesson we had in class. I laugh to myself when I see them honing their typing skills during free time- there are plenty of other programs for them to choose from. But it seems like they're actually enjoying my class, and that I really am doing something positive.