Somewhere that I always feel in my element is in a classroom. It doesn’t matter if it is a preschool classroom, seventh grade history, high school biology, or sitting in a desk. School is somewhere familiar to me. I can remember visiting my dad’s classroom at a young age and loving being at school. Even before our school opened, it felt like a school and I could hear the noises of the school. The same holds true for school here. I have had to reprogram my brain concerning the school because it is an open air school, it is in Spanish, and even more there are so many things that are different about scheduling and planning, etc. Improvising has been the most important lesson I have had to adopt.
We are officially on the ground and running. Beyond the language barrier, there are other contrasts that I have experienced. I am starting off teaching ecology, which most students find to be slightly boring. Rarely do they ask questions. As I went over the rules of my class, two of my four rules were – When you have a question, ask. And speak slowly so I can understand. Two very fair rules. And so when I ask if there are questions, the kids have questions. That has helped bridge the language barrier (except when I do not understand). Yesterday when I asked if there were questions, Everaldo asked, “When you say a word wrong in class. Do you want us to correct you every time?” Valid question. I guess I need to work On my pronunciation.
One of our greatest challenges is convincing the students that they CAN do the work. A mentality of not being able has been engrained in these students and so we remind them daily that they are able. My icebreaker lesson on the first day of school was a right brain/ left brained test. Not only were they excited to learn that their brain controls their strengths and weaknesses, but I could see light bulbs going off in their heads. My point to them was that even though their strength may not be biology or math, if they focus and work they can achieve anything. And I could see when I spoke, they were getting it. This is where I think God is giving me grace with my words to be able to communicate.
I concluded with a speech used in Coach Carter that I have used often with my kids. As they read and reflected upon this, it was the moment that I saw they begin to buy into being able to do something harder than what they thought they could accomplish . And so we are ten days into a year of education, not only in their courses, but preparing them to be community leaders of character.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.