Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Teacher's heaven

I'm the luckiest and happiest teacher in the world at this moment. It took more than a year to get to this point, but at last I can say we've arrived! There will always be a list of a few small things I want to add or upgrade or change, but this is as close as I can get to my dream for this classroom.

In September 2005 our school received 20 ready for recycling-dump old computers from a very well-meaning local police department that adopted our school. Since I was the only one at our school with computer literacy background, I was the "unlucky" one and got handed the task of setting up our school's computer center.

This classroom started out as a Science laboratory, changed into a normal classroom later, with plain desks combined with 3 different sized laboratory chairs. Three electricity sockets and two one working neon light - how on earth would we be able to get 20 pc's to work? It seemed like a mammoth task. Getting the 20 pc's switched on proofed to be impossible. None of them had CD ROMS, hard drive capacity was less than 4 gig, and the RAM was fixed at 64 MB. Not even worth upgrading!

To understand our lack of funds in the school better, you need a bit of background information. Many of the children in our school come from Soshanguve and Mamelodi, black townships around Pretoria. Many of the children come from single parent families, and even more parents are unemployed. We do however have a few children whose parents are working in the police force and government departments around or school - which is situated in the CBD of Pretoria. We do not receive half the school fees we're supposed to, so we're very much dependant on donations and fund-raisings.

In 2006 the school organized a gholf day with the help of my mom. She is just incredible when it comes to asking for and getting donations. One of these "asking for" meetings turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the school: Telkom Foundation undertook to donate a state of the art computer center to our school!

By the end of 2006 I was the proud teacher in control of a brand spanking new computer center, with 20 work stations and a server. We also received custom made tables that enhanced the security set-up, DSL, a laser printer AND airconditioning in our classroom! That year also saw the electricity being upgraded to accommodate all the new installations and security gates at all the doors.

We were very happy with our incredible gift, but a few practical problems cropped up: classes range from 38 to 40, and sharing a computer is not the favorite passtime of any child! The police department that adopted us, heard our plea and donated 10 more pc's, the school ordered 10 more custom made desks to fit in with the rest and the children were happier than ever.

After all the installations were done, the walls (a pinkish orangy color) didn't look all that good anymore and the these-walls-have-to-be-painted itch started. And then I thought, why not new blinds too? These old/beige/green/brown curtains need a new home! So we got busy. The children donated R20 ($3) if they could afford it, and got a CD with funny video clips from the internet on them as a thank you gift. We collected enough money to be able to buy new color posters, paint, mouse-pads (we didn't have those either!) and plants. Great friends of mine decided to donate the money for the blinds and we were set.

Patience was one of the things we had to have lots and LOTS of, since nothing happened quickly, but at long last our blinds was installed yesterday. The faces and comments of the children coming into the class seeing the new look the first time is priceless. They are so excited and so happy with their computer lab that has finally been dressed the way we've dreamed about.

Enough talk - here is my classroom: isn't it beautiful? (And yes, I cleaned up my desk before taking the picture - it's filled with books and school stuff most of the time!)

The computers are hidden below the desktops: they are lifted up when the computers are in use and closed again when we have to do classwork or whenever

a subject is taught that doesn't make use of the computers. You can see the keyboard peeping out in the table just to the left of the overhead projector. I'll download more pictures from my phone tonight, and show you what the rest of the class looks like.

Now I just have to find the time to put the posters back up! I'm in teacher's heaven - and the fun has only started!

***************UPDATED PHOTOS***************

Anti-clockwise, taken from the doors into my class.

All the pictures were taken with my new Sony Ericsson K810i phone - but seeing that I'm still learning how to use it, I forgot to switch on the flash a few times!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the incredibly wonderful comments in this post. I know my own limitations and short-comings as a teacher, thanks so much for thinking and saying what you did despite that!


Pamela Jeanne said...

What a heartwarming story, and what an amazing teacher you are. I'm all the more impressed with your ability to get outside of your own sorrow and redirect your energy in support of the children in your classroom. You are doing so much to nurture their potential.

Well done, and thanks for reminding me that there is great meaning to be had in life outside of raising our own kids.

Fertilize Me said...

SO what you are saying is that Hard work, perservence, patience can turn ouo tto look all the more beautiful!! Nice work

Reproductive Jeans said...

So proud of you! Very sweet story--and I wish that when I DO have kids one day, that YOU would be their teacher!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Can't write!!!

Just wanted to say enjoy the good times is all, happy for you :) XXX

Furrow said...

I love it when a plan actually does come together. I hope you all have a great year in your spiffy new classroom.

Lori said...

So wonderful how things came together for the kids at the school. And for you.

Schatzi said...

Fantastic classroom! Good job fighting for your kids. It must be a great feeling to see what you have been working on for so long now come to fruition.

MLO said...

Awesome work!



Trish said...

This post made me smile! It looks beautiful. Can't wait to see more pictures!

Geohde said...

That is indeed a lovey classroom to behold :)

Sarah said...

no doubt this will stick with many of those kids for a lifetime!

Carole said...

OMG Karen...that is so awesome. What a truly wonderful story...and how lucky those students are to have you. You are such an awesome teacher and I know you are making a difference in their lives.

Courtney said...

Wow, you did a great job! I am a 3rd grade teacher... I am proud of all your hard work! You can see that you are devoted and focused on the good of your students' education. Thank you!

Changing Expectations said...

What a great story and you put in so much hard work! Congratulations on this huge accomplishment!