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Can’t We Just Talk?

Qingqi Li

I didn’t feel nervous about my job until this past week.

Tomorrow is the first official day of Girls Inc.’s Eureka! STEM camp. I’ve been spending the past few days reviewing lesson plans and making last minute changes and additions. Something that I think is important to demonstrate to the girls, particularly for STEM curriculum, is that there are problems in our world that have no clear solution yet, and there are existing technologies that need improvement. I don’t want to present the girls with clear-cut solutions to everything, because that’s not the way the world works. I hope by showing the girls these problems, whether it’s about the need for improved desalination technologies or the development of Mars spacesuits, that they become inspired to search for and develop solutions. I want to be able to engage the girls, let them find meaning in each experiment, make friends with each other, and be successful in classroom management, which is a lot. I probably won’t be successful in achieving all of this on my first day, but I’m confident that I’ll at least get the hang of it by the end of next week. I feel like I’m ready for camp.

To be honest, most of my uneasiness from this past week came from tensions between the Girls Inc. staff and us DukeEngage staff. Miscommunication led to frustration on both sides, but we all only learned of each other’s frustrations this past week. When tension in the workplace arises, it’s so important to be able to see the others’ sides. I was frustrated and confused. It’s not always easy to think about the other’s perspective when emotions cloud my judgement. But time works wonders.

With time, the rest of the DukeEngage girls and I were able to do something productive about the whole debacle. We set up a meeting with the Girls Inc. staff that was long overdue. Something that I wish we did differently was have a nice long chat with the Girls Inc. staff about our roles, their expectations for us, and our expectations for the workplace right on the first day of work. Even though this didn’t happen during the first week, our meeting was still productive and it left me feeling much more positive in time for camp.

You’ve heard it about family, relationships, school, the workplace, life. Communication is, in fact, key. I will definitely take this with me into camp, as I want each girl to feel like they are heard and have the chance to be heard. As I conclude this blog post, I’m left with the great Khalid’s soulful voice crooning over and over in my mind: can’t we just talk?

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