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Daily Archive for Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

SET Jamaica

rebecca-argudin-stephanie-wittenauer[this from rebecca argudin and stephanie wittenaur with wicked dan brown leaning in]

From Kingston to Cambridge: What 2 Harvard Law School Students Learned from 20 Jamaican 9th Graders

As second-year law students at Harvard Law School, we have arguably been exposed to the best education that money can buy. Our professors are world-renowned legal scholars, and our fellow students are future Congresspersons and Supreme Court justices. And yet, after two years of classes here at Harvard Law, we can both honestly say that we have learned our most valuable lessons from twenty underprivileged 9th graders in Jamaica.

Each week this semester, we met with students from Ascot High School in Kingston, Jamaica, via Internet video chatting. With just a laptop computer and Internet access, we were able to instantly connect with students thousands of miles away.

Throughout the semester, we taught the students various lessons using fun and challenging strategic games. Although we prepared lesson plans and acted as teachers, we soon found that these students were actually teaching us in ways we had never expected.

Here are some of the most memorable lessons we learned…

Lesson #1: Kids have so much to say; they just need someone who is willing to listen

From the moment we first logged on to the video chat, it was apparent that the kids were eager and ready to interact with us. One by one, they walked up to the camera, waved to us, and started talking. They sang their school song, danced, asked us questions, and just talked to us about anything and everything. There was never any need to worry about if our lesson plan was too short or whether we would run out of things to say, as the kids were ready and willing to fill the time with questions, stories, and intriguing conversations. We learned about their lives, their school, their culture and even their uniforms, and shared with them anything they wanted to know about ourselves, the United States, and Harvard. We were so impressed by their politeness, vivid stories, and eloquent questions. We learned more than we could have ever imagined from these impromptu conversations and hopefully were able to satisfy a little bit of their curiosity about us. These students are so eager to learn new things and share their thoughts, but they need someone who is willing to listen. Once the spotlight is on them, and they have an audience, the possibilities are endless.

morning mail from jamaica

From: Barbara Ellington
Date: Sun, May 3, 2009 at 10:02 PM

Charley’s Questions
SET: Students Expressing Truth

1. Besides the beauty of the landscape and the warmth of the people, what are your reasons for using the Berkman Center for Internet and Society to help Jamaica?

2. Has it been successful; what else would you like to achieve here?

3. How would you describe the progress made by Jamaica as a country and technologically over the years you have been visiting Jamaica?

4. Name five things that could reform Jamaica’s prison system.

5. With the high crime rate in the island and the daily growing statistics, what other realistic steps can we take to combat crime?

6. What propelled you to become involved in the civil rights issues in a positive way? Was there a positively defining moment between you and black folks back home?

7. Another law professor from Harvard, Charles Ogletree, taught the Obamas at Harvard, did you teach him or come in contact with him? What kind of student was he?

8. You told me that you admire him (President Obama), why is this so? Knowing him as you do, what do you think he will take from his exposure to and knowledge of constitutional law into his choice for the Supreme Court vacancy?

9. I have met people from age 19 to 90 who have said, given America’s racist history, they did not expect to see a black president of the United States in their lifetime. Given what you know of your country, did you expect it?

10. I don’t believe in miracles but after only 100 days, your countrymen and woman almost expected Obama to turn water into wine, what improvements to foreign policy and the economy do you expect to see at the end of the first term?

11. How has the poker initiative been going?

12. What else would you like to accomplish in your life’s work?

13. What thrills you; makes you sad or surprises you about life?