First a word from our sponsor. Ok, they are not really our sponsor, but still, it’s a good word: Sponsor’s word. Read it if there’s something in your life you are trying to get better at. And there is, isn’t there? If not, why not?
Truth be told, I had a little bit of a hard start this morning. I planned to go for a walk. My knee was kind of cranky, so I decided to avoid the steepest set of stairs, instead going through the courtyard, around the building (five buildings, really) and down the hill on the sidewalk. I don’t usually do that because it is about ten times further. I was only a little surprised to see two police officers standing vigil at the entrance to Building A, where the Bronx police officer who was killed Tuesday lived. As I passed by them, they each made eye contact and said “Hello”. What did take me by surprise was my reaction. I felt so very, very sad, as if someone I knew had passed. The feeling stuck with me my entire walk.
There are a couple of key events in the first weeks of the Girls Who Code Summer Program, and I had all three today, almost back to back to back. During the week before the girls start, there is an important Teacher/Partner Orientation meeting, where the teachers meet the contact people from the corporation for the first time, and we get all kinds of logistics worked out: seeing the teaching space, checking on laptops, discussing planned events for the summer, and the like. At the second meeting I check in on the teaching team, see what’s foremost in their minds and then I give some suggestions about things that worked well for us and the girls last year: thank you emails, a class cheer, cell phone policy – things to get into the habit of right from the get go.
Ideally, these meetings take place in that order, with a couple of days in between, but this is a short week, so that can’t happen. We had those meetings back to back at one site today. That’s going to be an interesting classroom, because it is a double class – 40 girls and 6 teaching staff all in the same space. One of the teachers is coming in with four years’ experience, most recently at an all boys high school. She is very thoughtful, planful, and can see where sticking points are likely to occur even before they do. All that, and she’s willing to ask questions: “What do we do when a student forgets the password for their laptop?” We all know it’s going to happen.
After that I headed over to another site about a mile away (I AM getting my steps in – 15,600 today) for a different kind of event. During Week 1, the first week the girls are there, there is an event called the Meet and Greet, where students’ families come in, see the classroom and meet the teachers and other people who help pull the program together for the summer. This is typically a real shindig – lots of really good food. Tonight’s event at BlackRock (OK, I wasn’t sure what they did either, until I found out that I was going to be working there, and looked it up. They provide services to help people and groups of people (like corporations, municipalities and endowments) manage their money (like retirement funds).
It was a really great event – Lisa Dallmer, who is BlackRock’s Chief Operating Officer for Global Operations & Technology, introduced BlackRock and why their partnership with Girls Who Code is so important. Like many corporations who partner with GWC, they are committed to closing the gender gap in technology and want to hire women to fill positions. They support the program, in part, to grow the hiring pool in future years. The teaching staff introduced themselves and presented some information about the mission of GWC and what to expect this summer. After the presentations, students and families mingled and met the girls’ mentors (another great part of the GWC program) and toured the classroom.
This, at last, is where I get to the point of this post. I want to give a big shout out to Kristen Rogers, who absolutely went over the top preparing the classroom for the girls. When I first saw the room, my inner classroom critic went, “Ugh.” The space has no windows, a large table (which can seat 23) filling most of the room and had a distinctly corporate feel. Great for meetings, less great as a classroom. In the last few days, however, Kristen has utterly transformed that room. I have not yet seen a classroom exuding so much energy. The girls are going to have a great time in there this summer. Here is some of what she did.
The overall theme is Wonder Woman (or Wonder Women, as it came out today – I like it!). There are themed decorations all over the room. Two walls are covered with blue and gold stars of many sizes.
Along one wall, they have placed specially designed posters of women leaders in technology, both historical and modern day. If I understand correctly, they will be updating those throughout the summer with posters of women in other types of leadership positions. Awesome idea!
On another wall and a half, there are hand painted portraits of the girls themselves (what a metaphor – their pictures are literally hanging with pictures of women leaders. Give me a moment here – I’m verklempt.) Kristen met an artist, Kahiem Archer, and had him paint each of the girls from the head shot they sent in for their security badges.
He also painted a larger piece, which is like a poster for the whole room.
Overall the effect is amazing. I really do get to work with the best people. 🙂