The average four year old can stand on one foot for 9 seconds, peddle a tricycle, count 10 items and has the capacity to acquire 4 to 6 words per day, given access. They are learning everything from how to sit still for longer periods of time (we’re talking 10-15 minutes), how to wipe their own bottoms and quickly undo their pant buttons and how to do it in time. They are finding out how to open their own juice boxes and insert the straws without creating an apple juice geyser, and how throwing rocks at their friends seems fun but can also hurt someone. They must learn that writing on the walls and not following the rules comes with consequences. They are learning basically everything through trial and error.
Teaching ABC’s and 123’s in English to Spanish speaking toddlers comes naturally to me. We are forever singing catchy songs and playing fun games. After just a few weeks of class, almost all of the children can respond to the question, “What is your name?” with “My name is (Fernando),” can rote count to 10, can recognize their own names and can recognize several English letters. They have already learned many vocabulary words like boy, girl, same, different, backpack, and classroom. A few have even started saying word phrases like “a girl” or “my backpack.” It is truly amazing!
But a source of constant frustration for me as a second language teacher, is not in the academics, but in the area of the heart. It comes when I want to talk about the why, but my Spanish abilities sometimes end at the what.
I can communicate, “please don’t hit Camila!” but what I’d like to say is, “How sad Camila must feel when you hit her! You must be feeling very angry with her. How can you show Camila that you are angry without hurting her?”
Instead of only knowing how to say, “Oh, no! Please don’t touch the plants!” I want to say, “Oh no! How can we keep our school looking beautiful for all the children to enjoy? God’s creation is so awesome and He wants us to take good care of it.” You get the idea.
There is a cliche that pops up often in the missionary world that says, “God does not call the equipped, he equips the called.”
God is equipping me in these heart matters in three ways:
- He sent a bilingual woman of God to be at my side everyday. Rosalina is my teaching assistant and she is such a blessing with these matters. She has a beautiful way with the children and they love and respect her. She can remove a child from a sticky situation and have those longer-deeper conversations that I so very much want to have, but simply can’t. Her heart breaks for the children that so desperately need to know that they are loved and cared for. While we still have much work left to do, she completes me in the ways that I lack.
- He provided Spanish lessons. This is an answer to prayers! This year our school administration and missionary board is providing all staff with language lessons! So Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I have Spanish lessons with a small group of other missionaries.
- He gives grace. Period.