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!

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

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

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

School Days

Three second grade cutie pies!

Where do I begin to tell you what it’s like teaching second grade in the Dominican Republic?  The best part is the same as teaching anywhere, I imagine… the kids.  They all have their own little personalities and keep me laughing all day.  When I asked one student, Genevet, to use the word “argue” in a sentence, she replied, “Ar-GUE a good girl?”  LOL!  I’ve got a lover, a whiner, a dancer, a crier, a singer, a suck-up, a brainy, a wild child, a tattle-tale and a wiggle worm.  Our favorite part of the day is any time we get to sing and dance—which is a lot!  There’s never a shortage of hugs and there’s no political correctness involved in giving hugs and kisses freely.  And thank goodness they are so darn cute, because the school definitely comes with its challenges!  For one—the heat.  Being the last teacher to join the staff for the school year, I guess means I got last pick on classroom spaces.  My room is nothing more than a lean-to on the side of the building made out of plywood with a tin roof.  I don’t have a thermometer, but I would imagine that in the afternoons the classroom is in the upwards of 95 degrees or more.  The room is adjacent on one side to the outdoor lunch area and on the other side the PE field, so there are times when I cannot even open the windows because of the noise.  I try to find any way to move the class outside in the afternoons to cool off a little, because with the heat like that, no learning is going on.  But oddly enough, the kids NEVER complain about it.  It has just become what they are used to.  That also probably explains why Dominicans break out the scarves and gloves when morning temperatures drop below 75.  Cracks me up!

The other challenge is the lack of resources.  While I once grumbled about Polk County School’s slow internet or all 60 student laptops were not functioning the way I needed, I now just wish for a dry erase marker that works and the electricity to stay on long enough to make copies.  There are no Smart Boards, document cameras, Power Points, heck, we don’t even have the old-fashioned pre-historic projectors.  When I say there was NOTHING in my classroom except desks and a white board, I mean there was NOTH-ING.  No books, no supplies, no education goodies like math manipulatives or hands-on learning things.  There is no shelving or cubbies for backpacks so we take about five minutes 3-4 times a day just to tidy up because they keep everything in the wire basket under their desks.  So you get creative, and thank God daily for Pinterest.  You can do a lot with bottle caps, Pringle’s cans and contact paper.  Next week we are going to make paper mache globes provided that my parents can send in the supplies on time!  What is the saying—fun is what you make it?  J

I have definitely had a lesson in perspective.  Should I ever be crazy enough to return to the classroom in the states, I will feel like a queen!  Though, I don’t get the feeling this is the full-time job God has called me here for, I am making the most of it while I am here and embracing the Dominican culture.  They take pride in appearance and have very specific expectations in the dress code and the tidiness of your classroom.  I am pretty sure that if American schools would reinstate recess (our kids get two a day) the ADHD epidemic would be greatly reduced.  And I haven’t even mentioned lunchtime.  What a scene!  There are parents everywhere everyday!  I only have one or two students whose parents don’t bring them a home-cooked meal to school everyday and spend lunchtime with them.  And the best part of MY day?  Passing two little towheads in the hallways who run to give me a hug and kiss everyday!  I know that this is the best part of their days, too.  School is only two blocks away down a rocky dirt road, so I get to have an entire hour to eat lunch with my family at home everyday!  So like anything, you take the good with the bad.

For two years, I had this verse taped to my refrigerator that I once handwrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward (Col. 3:23-24).”  Let me just say, it now has a whole new meaning!