Today I laughed.
Today I worried.
Today I cried.
I rode on the swing of emotions that came through my mind and body. After visiting the Kayamandi Township yesterday, I was hopeful that I could make that proverbial change in this community and somehow work with my Autodesk team members to leave a small mark in this corner of the world. I tried to fall asleep but kept thinking of ways to connect Instructables projects to help fix the school, family photos with Pixlr, fablab networks and the buzzing of ideas were never ending.
Finally my sleep aide kicked in and I was able to calm my mind for a few hours of sleep.
In the morning, I woke up excited to meet the teachers that we would be spending time with this week. I was eager to hear about them, their challenges in the classroom and where they teach. My husband teaches in an inner city in the Bay Area. His students have parents that are involved in gangs, speak other languages in the home than at school and sometimes don't finish their history homework because they were taking care of younger siblings. I was interested to see how some of these similarities impacted the teachers in Kayamandi.
The team has teased me about unicorns, rainbows and sunshine dreams, I am the first to admit I am a positive person. But I believe in the idea of of hope and that anything is possible.
We had our morning meet-up with our fearless leaders from Team4Tech. The presentations were ready, we reviewed our agenda and last minute changes before heading out to Makupula High School. I could feel the team calm but excited for the day ahead. The school has a barbed wire fence surrounding it. Our driver pulled into the parking lot/playground. We started to unload the laptops for the school and laughter started from one of the hallways. That made me feel immediately at ease because a school always has children and laughter usually follows.
The classroom we are training in was set up in a traditional style - rows of desks aligned and angled toward the front. The paint was chipping but the remainder of a lesson about self-discipline was still on the walls and a tourism balance sheet in rows on the chalkboard. With a collective sigh of relief, we had arrived home for the next few days. The first change before setting up any computer was changing the environment of the room. Design and creativity are about collaboration - this room was not. We rearranged the seating into squares of four. We wanted the teachers to look at each other, work with each other and hear each other. This small shift set the day into a new experience for them and for us.
As the teachers came into the classroom, they were expressive, laughing and engaging. I observed that there was a clear collective fraternity among them all. The next teacher through the door was Linda, the eldest teacher in terms of seniority, I helped her find her name tag. She asked about where her assigned seat was, I told her she could sit anywhere she liked. It was a strange moment of freedom for her. Then she gave me a little bit of good natured ribbing about her not getting a lanyard like the one I was wearing. As I walked away, I disconnected my name badge from the lanyard and connected her name tag to it, walked back to her and slipped it around her neck.
Linda became my friend for the day after that. I think we bonded over that yellow Team4Tech lanyard.
Quickly we got down to business not wanting to waste a minute of the precious time we had for the four hours. Stacy, led the morning session and activities with a collaborative project of making anything with purpose out of paper clips and straws. Again there was a moment of pause for the teachers, they looked at us like we were slightly crazy but then the spark of ideas and discussion began. They started talking with one another, building, failing, trying again. They were doing something simple in a new way. We called time and had them present their ideas back to the group. Some had a way with words, others were focused on the structure and some built things for the school.
During the reflection we showed them how with simple environmental changes to their classroom and interactive projects they could increase student engagement. Slowly you could see the ideas coming into their minds, the quite class began to buzz and the teachers were learning. I could see our team relax, we were having fun, we were building relationships. About that time I was able download email during a break.
I received one from Lili, the Tinkercad QA team in China. The team has been aware of this trip and reading my blog posts.
Get you Kleenex because this is where I start to cry, in a happy way.
Our Tinkercad team researched the high school on google and found an image on google maps. After finding a few images they created 3D Models of the high school in Tinkercad. As I kept reading the email from Lili, my eyes welled up. I wanted to start sharing with the teachers but instead shared with the team. This kind, simple act is what Autodesk is about. The ability to enable anyone from anywhere to imagine, design and create.
If you are reading this blog, I am asleep and 10 hours ahead. Tomorrow I will be helping the teachers learn how to use Google as an educational tool for their students to research. The example that I am going to use with them is to find this blog post and see a 3D design of their school. I don't know what the reaction in the classroom will be but I can promise you that I will capture it.
So Tinkercad Community, I call on you now to leave a comment or send some Tinkercad love to these amazing teachers for me to share with them.