The musings of an English speaking preschool teacher in a Spanish speaking country

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!

 

My name is Rachel.

My name is Rachel.

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:

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. He gives grace. Period.

 

And whether it is in preschool or marriage, parenting or the office, His grace is always enough.
IMG_0867

World Changers

They only weigh an average of 50 lbs. each and none of them more than 52” high. Their colors range from creamy vanilla to warm chocolatey brown, but they are too young to notice the difference yet. They are coming into their own, but still have baby faces and sweet baby voices. There are 20 of them. They are small in size. They are first graders world changers.

It started out as a project, part of the expeditionary learning model at Doulos Discovery School. The first grade theme is Families Around the World. Trevor and I are in a unique position that we get to experience the fruits of our ministry through the eyes of our own children—being that Luke is in first grade and Emily in Kindergarten. Their classes are a purposeful and perfectly split-mix of full-tuition paying students and scholarship-funded kiddos. So it becomes this breathtakingly beautiful thing when they begin exploring the ways that each other live.

Instead of just telling them about the children that don’t have mommies and daddies, they actually went and visited an orphanage and made observations. Science. They were welcomed into the modest homes of a small poor neighborhood to interview the locals about their family dynamics. Language Arts. They learned about families on each of the seven continents. Social Studies. And then graphed the ones that have clean water and those that do not. Mathematics.

But somewhere in between bar graphs and world maps, they learned about this place called Africa. I know, because Luke has not stopped talking about it for weeks. They learned that just like their own country, Africa does not have clean water. And they also learned about the millions of bellies that go hungry every day. And this is when Social Studies and Language Arts turned into something bigger. Their tiny hearts were touched and they wanted to do something. Let me remind you, this comes from kids that have next to nothing, wanting to do something for those that have even less. Each first grade family contributed the equivalent of $2.50 to give food to local families in need, many of them stretching their contribution over a couple weeks as it was more than they could afford. And then they wanted to do even more. So with the help of some grown-ups the first grade class is hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser this month to send all of the money to Mozambique, Africa.

Doulos meets a need of this community, but it doesn’t stop there. These little ones are already paying it forward.

Look out world! Great things come in little packages. And their journeys have just begun!

20140412-213824.jpg

Making observations at the orphanage as a little girl washes her plate.

20140412-213846.jpg

A little boy and girl show the first graders this family’s outdoor kitchen. The students were collecting information about about families.

20140412-213933.jpg

Our little “African” in his traditional garb and his South American cutie-pie friend showing off their graphing skills at Expedition night.