Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Magic of a Story

I love reading books to children.  It doesn’t matter how old they are, when I open a book and begin telling a story, something magical starts to happen.  Things start to get quiet.  Conversations stop.  Fidgeting slows.  Eyes drift in my general direction and, by the second, maybe third page, I am holding captive, with my magical story book, every child within earshot.  It’s great.  For those 5-10 minutes while I’m reading, we are together, just sharing the experience. 

Today I got to spend the morning reading books to the younger grades as part of our creative arts day at school.  We had a blast, dancing, wiggling, chanting.  It was great.  Even with their extremely limited English skills, they could still appreciate and enjoy the storytelling experience. This is one of the things I miss about teaching lower elementary school.  The older the kids get, the less opportunities you have to read things aloud.  Luckily for me and my kids, though, fewer does not mean zero and I still take any chance I can to enjoy a good story with them.  From what I can tell, no matter how old they get, most still appreciate an excuse to revert back to their youth.  And who am I to deny them?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

That wasn't in the plan.

You may have noticed that I've been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging.  This hasn't been on purpose and I apologize for it.  Rather, it's been more a function of circumstance.  I've had a busy month.

I spent a week at the beginning of March camping in rural Kenya, helping a community of former poachers develop income-generating projects.  This was an amazing experience and I have lots to say about it, but I'm going to save that for another post (coming soon, promise!) because my trip isn't the real reason that I've been such a bad blogger.  It's much more exciting than that.

I've been asked to stay.  I met with the staff here a couple weeks ago and they basically told me that they think I'm doing awesome work and would like me to stay for as much of the school year as possible.  I'm currently the English teacher for Standards 6, 7 and 8.  It is the first year that our school has had a class 8, which is the highest grade in primary school, and it is a huge opportunity for the kids.  They will be able to sit their primary school exams at the end of the year and have a chance at getting into high school.  The goal is for me to stay with Standard 8 for as much of the year as possible in order to help them prepare.  All of their exams are in English, so having a native English speaker and a trained teacher is a huge advantage.  Plus, they are wonderful and I really enjoy teaching them.  I've also been working on developing the curriculum that the volunteers use.  We don't get very many trained teachers on the project, so I'm trying to leave as much teacher knowledge as I possibly can.  Unfortunately, with 3 classes, I've barely made a dent in getting together all of the resources I'd like to leave.

Before they talked to me, I wasn't planning on staying.  I spent most of February sending in employment applications and making plans for a summer and fall in Nebraska.  I was actually looking forward to something approaching normalcy for a bit.  On the other hand, I really love my kids and my work here.  So, I've spent the past couple weeks doing a lot of thinking, intuition-listening, financial planning, option weighing and logistical assessment. This is the real reason I've been a bad blogger.  I've been a bit distracted trying to keep up with my schoolwork and make (what have felt like) monumental life decisions.  

In the end (in case you hadn't guessed by now) the children won.  I love the work I'm doing here.  I feel like I am actually using all of my skills to make real change and I am absolutely in love with my kids.  So, when I leave them in a couple weeks, it's not goodbye so much as see you later, which is lovely.  I'll be back for them at the end of June.

Until then, I'll be taking a bit of a vacation to keep up some plans I had already made for visiting friends on this side of the Atlantic before heading home to resupply, hold my nephew and maybe see everyone else.  (Just kidding, I miss you all and can't wait to see you!)  I'll be home for most of June and then come back to Mombasa as the Standard 7 and 8 English teacher and Volunteer Coordinator for my school.  (That's right, I'm coming back as staff.  Unpaid staff, but still, I'm moving up in the world...)  The current plan is to stay through the exams at the end of October and be home in time for Thanksgiving and the little nephew's birthday.  (mmm, turkey...)