I began this week thinking about how I could do better as a teacher. What I could do to be more for the students and be a better example of patience and love. I figured that I could write down specific actions that I can do for them every day and reflect on what I already do. Then I could figure out how I could do more. Of course this failed, because you cannot count loving actions, you just have to act. You just have to be. The week didn’t go without many realizations though and I started to take a lot of stock in the love around me. About a day into my reflection time I realized how the people in my life shown me so many incredible examples. So I decided to write about a few from last week and these truly are from the same week.
My week started like any other, with me sitting down to my morning coffee before school, when I was interrupted by Teddy. She was carrying a big bag. She told me “Your children brought you a gift” and inside was a huge papaya. She told me the children gave it to her to give to me. I found myself pretty taken aback. I was amazed at the generosity, that a family would give me food when food is such a precious commodity. I was also amazed when I looked at the bag and the story it told. The small white bag was stained with little reddish brown fingerprints and hand marks. Their hands were dirty and sweaty from when they undoubtedly picked the Papaya and then carried it all the way to school. There was no time or thought given to washing their hands. They were just excited about sharing a nice papaya.
One of the many differences of working with children here is that they come from very different homes. Of course their home lives are different, but their homes are too. Many of the children deal with problems associated with cleanliness. It is simply hard to keep clean when your home is made from the Earth. Even homes with brick walls often times have a dirt floor and no running water. Thus a very common problem (more than half of our students at any given time) is that they develop ring worm all over their bodies especially their head. That is the reason why they are always cutting their hair, because they want to get rid of the ringworm. Working with them daily I hold hands, have hands on my arms, give hugs and just end up with hands on my bare skin a lot. I could change the way I interact with the children, but I know that is not what they need. So I get ringworm too. Though I wash diligently, I still get it occasionally on my arms, like I did last week. Of course then I treat it and it goes away in a couple weeks.
I was sitting with some of my students at recess and chatting about the day. A student of mine from P2, Regina noticed my mark on my arm. She asked me what my mark was, and I said it’s from a bug (I never want them to become self-conscious about their shillings on their heads). She asked me if it was hurting me, I said “no, I just try to keep it clean”. So we continued to talk and watch some children blow bubbles. We then talked about how we use soap to make the bubbles and it’s ok if it gets on their clothes, because it’s just soap (they were worried about spilling the bubbles). Then about a minute later without saying a word Regina started to rub her fingers on the spot on my arm. She had covered her fingers with the soapy water from the bubbles. I only got as far as saying “what…” when she said “I’m making it clean”.
Each moment showed how just thinking of others and using the smallest things around us can make us better examples of love. It is moments like Regina cleaning my arm that make me love Africa and have made me stride to be more caring. Even though I am teaching English and sharing knowledge, I am learning so much more. Never in a million years did I think that I would be so happy about someone trying to clean my arm with bubbles. One of the biggest hurdles I faced when becoming an elementary school teacher was getting over the “space bubble” that children often lack. When overcoming that I never thought it would invariably lead to cases of ringworm that I would just learn to accept. But here I am, with a small orphan girl who weighs less than 50lbs, but has enough heart to teach all of us. I cannot quantify the loving actions, but I am certain our school gives them the example. They know they are loved and now they represent that every day. It happens in the smallest things, and by focusing more on those around me, what they do and how they care, I have become so much happier. The children taught me that we are all surrounded by love if we choose to recognize it.