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March 7, 2011

With the dawning of March, preschool has officially been back in session for one month.  My initial period of orientation has passed and I am now navigating the ropes of my new job.  I teach one English lesson each morning in top class (kindergarten) and divide the rest of my time between assisting the caretakers in the infant/toddler daycare and constructing educational materials and toys to improve the program.  I’ll be honest, there are no rainbows and ponies in early childhood education.  I’ve tried to use my English lessons as opportunities to introduce creative learning and interactive play.  But with 45 of them and one of me, any attempt, no matter how meticulously planned, quickly nosedives into fist-fights and sob-fests.  I’m left maniacally barking out instructions and muttering a string of expletives under my breath.  Then I head on over to the daycare and someone poops on me.  The projects I introduce flop, the language barrier seems unsurpassable, and my ideas feel culturally imperialistic.  Nearly every day I reach a point where I’m ready to throw in the towel and call it quits.

This Monday started off on a different note.  I awoke to the sound of silence.  As my apartment opens onto the nursery, by the time I roll out of bed on weekdays students are beginning trickle in and the decibel level rises with the sun. I scratched my head at the lack of screaming children and crying babies before remembering the public holiday.  I soon settled in with a cup of coffee and set up for a rousing morning of constructing hanging mobiles for the cribs in the daycare.  I had just pulled my pliers out when three visitors appeared at my door.  The members of this trio are regularly students in the nursery and got dragged to school on a holiday because their parents work on campus.  I pulled out a few of the toys I’ve been constructing to try out on my sample group and sat back to watch. 

Something began to happen. 

Foam blocks assembled into a house.  A tin can became a speeding car.  A scrap fabric doll was hoisted on someone’s back as “baby.”

The entire day became an unexpected classroom, a glimpse of what could be.  We built tall block towers and knocked them all down again.  We practiced our fine motor skills buttoning skirts on dolls.  We matched patterns and colors of fabrics.  We paged through picture books and talked about the houses and children, goats and chickens we saw.  In Acholi.  And I understood.  There were a few inevitable disagreements and grabbing incidents, but we talked it through, learned to share, even offered to help.  I saw my students be creative, empathetic, curious, and I remembered that kids aren’t so bad after all.  Before we broke for lunch we all tucked “baby” in for a nap on her makeshift bed.  The curtains were drawn and we tiptoed out, whispering and shh-ing each other as we went.

The real icing on the cake came in the afternoon, when Noah and the Whale’s “5 Years Time” popped up on my itunes.

Three year old Peace perked up from the cloth scraps she was sorting and started bobbing her head to the beat and whistling along with the intro (or at least performing a very adorable attempt at a whistle.)  Following Peace’s solo, a spontaneous interpretive dance ensued, complete with scarves.  The rest of the day Peace sang the chorus, “Fun fun fuuun,” on repeat, shakin’ her hips all the while.  Her rendition sounded a bit more like, “Fa fa faaa,” but clearly she got the message.

Sitting on my front step tonight, under the swaying banana leaves, I listened to Peace’s theme song one last time.  “5 Years Time,” you say?  Make it three and I’m in.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2011 11:20 pm

    We’re all thinking about you and Peace, Liz, and singing along! What a gift a day can become.

    “Although maybe all these moments are just in my head / I’ll be thinking ‘bout them as I’m lying in bed / And all that I believe might never really come true / But in my mind I’m havin’ a pretty good time with you”

  2. Clarisa de Villacorta permalink
    March 9, 2011 10:31 pm

    Dear Lizzie nice to hear from you all the simply but complicated things you are trying to do. Don´t quit¡¡¡¡¡ the cultural barriers must not dissapoint you. Enjoy the experience and the personal growth you are having. At home, the world seams to be not so different as you are experienced now. Thanks for make the time to share with everybody. A big hug Tía Clarisa

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