We woke up to some heavy rains overnight which even though it had stopped by the time we began our 6:15 a.m. walk to school it meant two things: 1) the humidity which was already at 90% was continuing to rise and steam things up and 2) it meant the streets were flooded with massive puddles of varying depths. With a very poor sewer drainage system and uneven/dirt roads being the norm, the water just pools. We successfully navigated our way through the neighborhood and before we knew it the sun was rising and another beautiful day at ISD was awaiting us!

Today was supposed to be the most challenging of the trip; we were three days into the week of doing a similar presentation with kids. We were now working with only the 8th graders, after two days of high school students, and it was a long day that concluded with a parent meeting in the evening evening to discuss our experience working with their kids. With all those challenges it actually turned out to our most rewarding day yet. The 8th grade students were extremely impressive in their enthusiasm, their willingness to participate fully in every activity we threw their way, and made the day absolutely fly by. By the end of the day they had also taken ownership for the implementation of a handful of ideas to make ISD a little better place for all students, staff and families. Pretty impressive crew of kids…..pretty sure some of them will be solving some major world issues for us adults in the years to come. It was the type of day that makes being an educator so incredibly rewarding.

When the day was over there were lots of hugs, high fives and tons of smiles, which is what this experience is all about. We then took advantage of the short window between the end of the day and the start of swim team practice and jumped in the outdoor pool to cool off. The pool temps were perfect and it was a great place to relax even for just a few minutes (as Eric ran around, once again, solving everyone’s problems related to after-school activity organization!) With a Pre-K through 12th grade program, nearly every kid at ISD is involved in something and for many it is multiple somethings. My favorite part is that regardless of ability there is a place for everyone in every activity. After our swim we headed over to the gym for volleyball to watch some of our favorite kids we have met thus far take on one of the local rival club teams. It was so much fun to not only watch them play, but also to hear them actually using much of the Top 20 terminology we had been teaching them the previous two days! ISD came out on top in a very tight three set match and the pride and spirit we were able to witness is truly second to none.

We had dinner ordered in tonight to the school and it was once again fantastic. One of my biggest fears before the trip was “what will the food be like?” and “Will I find anything I like?” The answer is a resounding yes! Without any processed foods, everything is fresh and “home made.” After dinner we headed to the top floor of the admin building that had a great large balcony view of the ocean and enjoyed the gorgeous views as the parents were arriving in the adjoining meeting room for our parent presentation. We spent 90 minutes with the parents sharing an abbreviated version with them of what we have been sharing with their kids. It was a little different audience than we are accustomed to speaking as it included the spouses of the Dutch, Israeli, and other ambassadors in Senegal, along with several others with high-ranking jobs including working at the United Nations here in Dakar! That being said, we just shared who we were, what Top 20 is all about, and as is always the case with this material, they could totally relate. One of the beauties of Top 20 is the content really does apply to everyone and everyone can find at least something useful. As usual Tom was a huge hit with this group with his humor and ability to really connect on that level and I tried to just support his humor with how we applied the lesson with their kids. The feedback after the session was extremely positive which is always nice to hear!

On the way home we stopped to pick up some more fruit at the stand from Fatou and could not believe she was still there as it was approaching 9 p.m.! As is always the case with everyone we have met here, she was so incredibly warm and friendly giving out hugs and high fives like she is the one who was teaching us the Top 20 strategy of “Four at the Door!” Regardless of whether the fruit she sells is the best in the world or not, I can’t imagine another fruit stand anywhere that can make a visiting customer feel so incredibly special.

Tomorrow is our last day with students at ISD and it will be with 6th and 7th graders. Immediately following, our guide for the next couple of days (Almamy) is meeting us at school to take us to a market and then we are returning home for a traditionally-prepared Senegalese dish prepared by the Rodine’s maid, Ellie, along with Almamy and the Upper School principal, Brad Bell, and his wife. Friday morning Almamy will be taking Tom and I for the day on a real cultural experience of all the local highlights. Can’t wait! Will check-in again the next couple of days as we are able! Hope all is well with all of you!

Boinsoir from Senegal!

This Blog entry was written by Matt Percival, Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Athletics at Eastview High School in Apple Valley, MN and edited by Kevin Brennan of Top 20 Training.