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What it REALLY means by “Prepare for the worst case”

September 20, 2009

I have now experienced that the hard way.

On Friday afternoon, my co-lead sms-ed me with a predicted message, “Elian, I haven’t got my curriculum. Could you please lead tomorrow’s session?” I knew it. It was Monday when she offered to lead the Saturday’s session. But she hasn’t got her curriculum. How is she supposed to prepare? Well, having the inability to be assertive as I am, I agreed to it. After several rounds of phone calls, I found out that we did not need to buy the supplies for the project. GREAT. That left my evening free for actual preparation: researching the topic, allocating time, and choosing introduction games. That was actually a lot of work.. you know, for first time teacher 😀

I was a little overwhelmed, I think. I read and read and wrote notes.. being not sure of how many kids and volunteers would show up made it hard to be accurate in dividing the groups and tasks. Though I know pretty well this is not exact science. Of course we can’t never tell how many people will show up in an event! Duh. Anyway, at 1 am I insisted to go to sleep. My mind though, kept reciting what might happen tomorrow: from arriving at the school, looking at the classroom space and where the small groups should be, briefing the volunteers, motivating the students, and so on. I really wanted to sleep. Being as anxious as I could be, I woke up an hour earlier than planned, and did not feel sleepy. At least I did not feel tense either. I prayed at night before my preparation, for God to lead me in this activity, and I believe it’s Him who gave me the peace and assurance.

~ ~ ~

I made myself a cup of milk coffee. Have to be fresh and excited for the children, right? It took about 55 minutes to get to the school, without any problem following the direction. Easy. The site representative came at about 9.40 am. She showed me the classroom where the 3rd grade project would be in. Now what’s in my mind the night before became real. I re-arranged a few desks when all of a sudden I remembered, the supplies! I should check the supplies!

I rushed down to the storage room. Found the storage bin marked “Health and Fitness, 3rd grade.” But as I digged into the bin, I felt uneasy. “There are only plastic funnels. Where are the plastic tubes?” I kept thinking, “We can’t just use plastic funnels. We need the tubes to connect them!” Panic. So much for the first day. Does everything have to be a surprise? Then there came my co-lead with the volunteers. I couldn’t look panic in front of them cause they need me to explain to them what the day was going to be like. Lucky to me, my co-lead has briefed the volunteers before or in the bus. So at that moment I just needed to coordinate with her.

Some of the other coordinators apparently also could not find some supplies. One seemingly-more-experienced coordinator noticed our struggles and stepped up. “Since it’s the first day of the program, my class is only going to play get-to-know-you type of games. And I have some worksheets for (game) exercises that you can copy and use in your classroom if you’d like.” Well, that gave us a big relief. First, I didn’t think of steering the whole project all the way to just.. games. Second, I didn’t think it would be okay with the school.

Long story short, we pulled through. The group games went well. The students paid attention and were involved. In small group games, the volunteers were able to encourage and to involve each student. The 5 students : 1 volunteer ratio was great. As I went around the tables, there was only one student who was really quiet and shy, and another who wept in the beginning, but was able to comfortably play with his new friends after a while. No major problem. Except one thing.

~ ~ ~

While we were playing outside, my co-lead left her bag on a bench, and forgot to take it with her when going back in. After a few mins, she checked outside and it was no more! I couldn’t believe it because the neighborhood seemed pretty safe, and there was no one outside the school earlier. She was devastated. Even the kids could tell something bad happened. One student thoughtfully asked, “Is her credit card in there?”

I felt guilty too, knowing I could have picked it up while she was playing with the kids. Argh. Like all problems just have to happen that day. One after another.

But my assumption did not fail me so bad. About fifteen minutes later, my co-lead peeked outside the school door again. Actually she was hoping to spot some random people who might look suspicious or something. But instead she met the mother of a student who was carrying her bag. “White bag?” asked the mother. Oh, how relieved everyone was!

That day I learned three important things:

  1. Do not -ever- take your belongings away from your hands, especially with nobody you know around. Leaving it in the classroom is ok (I think, for now).
  2. Make plans for even the worst of the worst scenarios: no supplies, no volunteers, accidents while running experiments..
  3. Help one another It’s 8 pm, and I was still pumped up. Too much coffee? Or excitement? Maybe both 🙂
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