Successes and Failures

I had a new student today. As I normally do, I was lenient since this was his first visit to my program. Many of the students have used the museum offices to do work before and they aren’t aware there is a new sheriff in town. I’m a mean teacher, as my little sister can attest, but fair. I ease them in with a fair warning:

  • Rule #1: Nothing gets printed without proper citations.
  • Unofficial Rule #1A: If I’ve seen you more than twice, you write your own homework – none of this copying/pasting off Wikipedia stuff. I’ve seen the assignment – it says “write one paragraph” not “copy one paragraph”.
  • Rule #2: Sign up for computers in advance or wait your turn. We only have 3 available computers. If you come crying the day before an assignment is due, you maybe out of luck. Plan ahead.
  • Rule #3: Whatever Miss Jessica says goes. This is not verbalized unless someone crosses the line. I try not to use my “most serious voice” except on necessary occasions.
  • Unofficial Rule #4: No Loitering. If you aren’t doing work, you are volunteering for the museum.

The kids that have been using the program for months were chiming in as I rattled off the familiar speeches. “Oh good,” I thought, “I’m getting through.”

The poor new kid, however, looked horrified at the thought that he might have to extend the effort to rub two brain cells together.

“But the teacher doesn’t care, just gives the same grade.”

I used my secret weapon:

“Well, do you want to be the same as everybody else, or better than everybody else?”

“Better!” chimed my peanut gallery.

“The same.” chimed the new kid.

Shoot. That backfired, didn’t it? Maybe I should form a different approach for the children who look at me with big scared eyes. Or maybe it’s better that they go to the library where (as I understand it) they charge 10 cents per page but don’t bother you about what work you are doing. My program is geared toward one-on-one education so I’m willing to help anyone who will put in the effort to think about assignments ahead of time. If my new friend comes back after hearing my stipulations he’ll be greeted as the prodigal son. I’m pretty sure I lost him forever after the bit about “no copying”.

* * *

This week was the first week without our front staff, Judette. She’s gone on maternity leave. That leaves me and the maintenance guy to run the show, with Lina working when her class schedule allows. It’s interesting to work the shop without a second staff member (technically Joseph doesn’t count. Tours are not his job.) When one bus driver looks at me horrified that I can’t do his tour right now because I have ten minutes left with the first group, I can do nothing except remind him we’re all on the same team. You guys doubled the tours, we asked for 30 minutes in between groups. Keep to the schedule man!Since I had to be in the shop all week, I declared it renovation week. Amazing how useful my time at H&M has become. Not only can I create a strategic plan and manage projects, but with a few flicks of the wrist, I can whip up a mean display!

As with the H&M Modern Classic ladies line, which works to portray a chic, yet stylish, image, I went with the clean look in the shop: all books together, all mugs together, all Where is Simon, Sandy? items together, etc. While cleaning out the storage shelves I came across and area that looked surprisingly like the Visual’s Room.

Stealing a leftover stand-alone shelf, I finally conquered the never ending shelf-against-the-back-wall by breaking up the space and making our shop look fuller and creating a nice little showcase area.
The next area of attack is the signage. I’m using that oh-so-impressive signage we created for the Spring 2 Collections events and highlighting some local artists. Turns out almost everything in the shop is made by local masters in all kinds of media – handmade necklaces, baskets, pottery, local coffee roasters, photographers, writers, watercolorists…. I feel guilty that I have to be selective, but for the sake of the tourists, I’ll keep it simple.There are a few leftover projects – creating proper display cases for one – that will not fit into my one week plan. But it’s going to look significantly more polished. Maybe my display can work as a micro-metaphor for the country: We’ll see how long it lasts.

* * *
I’ve been learning more about the political situation here. It’s truly frustrating to hear about. Especially when I see the proof of the stories reflected in my small and various projects. That’s how apparent it is: even with limited interaction outside the office, I have a grasp of the major issues. My inner engineer is having a difficult time just sitting by while the political turmoil unfolds. I’m genetically programed to try and fix the problem, analyze the weaknesses, hypothesis solutions, and put the best one into practice. This is such a beautiful little place with so much potential, why can’t they see it all like I do?But the reality is I have no influence over anything except the few kids that straggle through my door. Even to them I’m just an outsider – no better than the British in local eyes. I wonder if the solution seems so far away because I’m an outsider. Am I just stuck in the American/European thought process? The one that says complete sentences are important? If everyone has the the same poor writing style across the board, does that really impact daily business? Maybe it’s just a foreign language that I don’t understand but they get perfectly…?

I guess that doesn’t matter much. The real problem, of course, is that the core issue is a learned skill. People expect to get something for nothing – like when they expect to study in UK universities while handing in sub-par work to the TCI Community College. How long will it take these folks to realize that they can’t rely on government for food/shelter/water/education if no one is working for it. Where will the tax money come from to pay for all those benefits if the citizens don’t put in a little elbow grease? Canada is setting up the hospital because no one here is qualified.

The cruise center, then? A big corporation like Carnival must have oodles of money. Why not just sell the entire TCI to Carnival and have done. Carnival: the first business to officially own and operate a country better than the current residents.

It’s possible that’s in their long term plans – maybe I should buy shares.

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