Rebecca and 3 other young women are students at MIT, part of the IDC project. Great Shape! Inc. has facilitated humanitarian projects in Jamaica since 1988, including literacy projects in the rural schools. Project leaders, Lucinda Kay and Brad Adams say, “Great Shape! Inc. has been dreaming of a project specifically for the JA teachers for years. We’re so blessed these MIT students chose to collaborate with us. They were brilliant, effective, and had some great dance moves too.” Please enjoy this guest blog post by Rebecca…
I’ve been in Jamaica for over two weeks now, and leave in less than a week. The past few summers, in addition to working for June and July, I have taken August off to do something different and interesting that will give me a new type of experience and teach me something. I am a junior at MIT studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and my interest in computers, as well as travel, initially led me to this project. This experience, teaching computer skills in Jamaica, is special to me because not only was I building my own experiences and skills, but I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to actually give back. I love teaching computers to people who don’t realize the capabilities because seeing that realization is always enjoyable.
Along with two MIT classmates, an alumnae and a non-profit called Great Shape! Inc., I worked to provide computer classes for local teachers in Jamaica. We taught the class at Green Island High School, bringing in primary school teachers from over 10 schools including Kendal, Riverside, and many other schools from the area. When I got to Jamaica I had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know how old the computers would be, how many computers we would have access to, how many teachers were coming or what their skill level would be. On our first visit to Green Island High School we saw a computer lab with 20 very old computers, but were able to move to their second computer lab with 30 computers (all that work better than our computers labs at MIT haha). They hadn’t told us about these originally, but we were happy to have been provided with such great resources. We were planning to teach the basics of computers, internet, email, and the Office Suite. It would make it much easier with faster computers and bigger screens. The lab turned out to be great, and we were just waiting on a count of teachers and what skill level they were.
So skip to when the teachers arrived. There were 29 people on the first day, one less than the number of computers we had and grew to 44 by the last day. There were many different levels present, many had never used a keyboard before, some had a computer and email address but had never used their email, and a few were very comfortable with computers and had come to learn Office, graphics, etc. This was probably the hardest part about the experience (how do you reduce the lesson to be understood by the beginners while having it still be beneficial to the most advanced users?) We started to get the hang of it the last couple of classes. The best part about teaching is when your student learns to do something they didn’t even know was possible before, whether beginner or advanced.
Our last official day of teaching was this past Friday. We ended the class on a great note. The teachers gave us gifts (which were completely unexpected), we printed them all certificates, made them a slide show about our experience in Jamaica, and said goodbye with pictures for both us and the teachers. I feel like I learned a lot from this experience about teaching and about Jamaican culture. And just from talking to many people here, I am gaining other knowledge as well. I’m excited to go back to school/work, and apply all the things that I’ve learned.
Rebecca and her team opened the world to these Jamaica teachers. Thank you!