March 15, 2013

Getting Back on the Saddle.... or is it in the Saddle?


So Tuesday morning I stepped through the gate of Hope International School of Arts and walked to Miss Holly's classroom. I'd been in it once before, but only to peek around and say 'hi.' I found the sub plans on the desk and began reading through them. I found a smal white box with a red top fashioned with a bow on it, and opened it to find the chalk for the chalk board. I scrawled my name in the corner of the board, grabbed the black towel and wiped away the date, entering in the new one as chalk dust collected on my fingers. A little round face peeked in the room and smiled at me.
“Good morning,” I greeted her.
“Good morning,” she replied.
“What's your name?”
“Mercy.”
“I'm Miss Amanda.”
She nodded shyly, hiding a smile and ducked back out to the courtyard to play with the other kids before the proverbial bell rang. (I'm pretty sure it was just a whistle being blown)
When it was time for the day to start the kids lined up at the door, waiting to be allowed in. As the filed in the room I asked each their name, and told them mine in return. Mercy, Noella, Chloe, Prince and Hasanni walked in and stood behind their desks waiting. For what I wasn't sure. Chloe lead the class in saying good morning to me, and the day began.
After some Bible time of reading about a missionary and working on illustrating the memory verse for the week we had some worship time and sang a song a capella style with Hasanni and Mr. Stephen (the Tanzanian assistant) drumming along on the desk top. Next was language arts time and after going over the assignment I watched the kids work together in their groups to create a cheer that focused on verbs. It gave me time to think and remember how much I miss teaching. Truly teaching. Not paperwork, not meetings every second day, not politics- just teaching. The kids were excited about learning, excited to work together on a project. And they did such an amazing job! After language arts it was time for break. The kids all went outside for a little while and I got to chat with a couple of the other teachers who asked how the morning was going (it was only 10am). After about 20 minutes we returned to the classroom to a tray of watermelon and uji layed out for the kids' snack. They each grabbed their mug (uji (oo-ghee) is a cream-of-wheat type substance but much more filling, made with soybeans, peanuts and different flours, etc.) and their watermelon and headed over to the reading chair for read-aloud time. Then it was time for math. Since it's a two grade split, there are two groups of kids on different levels of math (acutally there's a third, one girl is on her own level and the assistant does math with her). So one group got some leftover work finished up while I got the other group started on their math. Once they got the concept and we did a few problems on the board they were ready to go on their own so I started with the other group. They were working on multi-digit multiplication and didn't grasp it quite as quickly as the other group. So we sat and worked out problems with manipulatives, worked out problems on the paper using different ways to get the answer, and they finally started getting it.
That's when it happened.
As I stepped back and watched them do one last problem on their own and they were doing all the steps and getting it right, and seeing where they forgot a step and going back and fixing it – when I saw that I knew – I was ready to be back in the classroom. This is my passion. It's what I live for – being able to teach and see the progression from confusion, to understanding, to mastery. I was so proud of the students for pushing through and battling with the problems until they got it! And frankly, it made me smile inside, knowing that I was able to teach two students (one Tanzanian and one American) how to do mulit-digit multiplication – because it took me a minute to remember how to do it after all these years :)
Before I knew it the day was over. It was noon and almost time for lunch! The core curriculum at Hope is taught in the morning, then in the afternoon it's electives time (drama, PE, art, photography classes, etc.). The afternoons are also opened up for area home-schoolers to come take part in a la carte type classes. I said good-bye to the kids, reminding them that I'd see them tomorrow for picture day and my heart was happy. The joy of teaching had been returned to me and it felt so. Good.
The kids were amazing, so sweet, so eager to learn. The atmosphere was soaked in the Holy Spirit and so relaxed and fun – it really, really made me want to get back in the saddle especially if it's here at Hope School.... or is it on the saddle? -