The Mathmatics of Mission Teaching
Updated: Jan 11, 2022
At first glance, teaching at a small mission school in a third world country can seem like a lot of division and subtraction.
You know, dividing your time and attention between a bunch of different grades.
A hundred times a day, you go from... "What color do I make the bunny wabbit?" to teaching algebra and having long philosophical discussions with a bookworm sixth grader about historical characters. Then throw in some third graders who think long division is the most complicated torture device ever inflicted on children and who are extremely competitive kickball players. Yep, there's a lot of division.
Then you subtract the nice little things you always took for granted as a teacher. Dollar Tree!!!! Ahem... Walmart charge cards for art supplies. Co-teachers to consume pumpkin spice lattes with and obsess over which font to use on the Christmas program hand-out-thingies. Board meetings. I know I'm weird but I never dreaded them, and boy have I missed them this year!! And I had Happy Planner withdrawal soooo bad... Not fun drawing out lesson plans in a boring green notebook. In short, basically anything that involves a lot of money... you subtract.
Sometimes subtraction isn't all bad! We subtracted an air conditioner for most of the year. A few weeks ago we got a brand new window unit! The excitement was amazing... having AC was this huge special thing that almost had the kids wanting to come in from recess. Another thing I see is probably these kids have a little more simple lives than their families in North America, so when they have special boughten snacks, go out to eat, or go to the beach, they talk so much about it and it's such a big deal to them. So I think that goes to show that sometimes subtraction needs to happen, and then the little things you do add in seem more special.
Another thing you add that's beyond cool is a language. Because most of my kids are Haitians adopted by North American families, we truly wanted this to be a school that was proud. of. Haiti. And ya, it helps that the love of my life is Haitian so I'm totally into this place of course. We had Kreyol class with our Haitian aid every week, then a sassy (yes Kreyol is kind of a sassy language) Kreyol only recess, like you were "out" or "it" if you ever let an English word slip. We also had a couple epic song translations. One of my students translated Scotland's Burning into Kreyol while in the bathroom. Yep. True story. And on the program what do you know? We're singing "This Land is Your Land" with three different choruses... USA, Canada, and Haiti.
You multiply the games you switch through... Drop the Hanky to Basketball and Ultimate Frisbee. You multiply the topics you pick for story hour... From Tacky the Penguin to Cheaper by the Dozen.
And at the end of the day, it's still teaching... You are frustrated and get warm fuzzies... Love the kids today and want to send them packing tomorrow. And all my fellow teachers know, it's addictive. And no, I'm not teaching at Blue Ridge next year, but I am keeping my foot in the door.
When the Haitian schools let out for summer vacation, I have some Haitian kids lined up to come to my house for English lessons! Super exciting, although I probably don't really know what I'm in for!
So now... I want to also tell you about our field trip Monday.
So many people tend to focus on Haiti's poverty, and I want to always remind you, that there are so many beautiful places and people, so please don't lump us all with the bandits, and write off the beautiful beaches because of Port au Prince's trash problem.
Destination: Kenscoff! Stops: Fort Jacques >> Wynn Farms >> Belmart Supermarket for ice cream
East of Port au Prince is a mountain, and the further up you go, the richer the people. Petionville is the most affluent subarb of Port au Prince, and if you climb even higher, you reach Kenscoff, a mountaintop settlement of the true rich people in Haiti... probably a lot are retirees that have worked in another country all their lives, and there are some foreigners a
lso. I can see why they chose to live there. It was 68* in the middle of the day. Yes! We all wore jackets because it often doesn't get below 80* at night in Port au Prince. This is getting a bit long, so I'll just post a pic and a paragraph about the two places we went.
Fort Jacques was built in 1804 along with a bunch of other forts, right after Haiti became the first nation where slaves successfully revolted. They literally ran the French, their oppressors, off the island! We had a great guide there and the kids' favorite parts were:
Cannons: Ya, kids love cannons!
Shouting over the edge of the precipice and hearing our echoes: They had a system of calling through a conch shell to signal that everyone needed to come take refuge in the fort if the French ever attacked again. (They didn't.)
The spooky tunnel: They started building a tunnel to another fort but they gave up after 50 meters. No one had enough courage to go to the end.
Wynn Farms was started by an American man who was married to a Haitian lady. Apparently he had some money, because he started buying up land in Kenscoff. Today their daughter runs it, and it is a totally stunning nature preserve. Every field trip needs a place for the kids to run loose and this was it. We ate lunch over looking the city (that's the cover pic for the blog), and then they loved petting all the animals. These kids haven't had chances to go to zoos, so the peacock spread its tail and all that was super cool. They had teeter totters and all kinds of other playground equipment made from tires. The kids said Haitians should build cool things with all their tires instead of burning them in the streets. Yeah and A-men! I loved the flowers, but I won't bore you with those details. If you're a flower freak, just know you're missing out.
We have a big trip planned for tomorrow (Oriani year end school party) and it's 10:50. I love having a house and all the little things you do to say goodbye to it for the weekend... watering flowers, cleaning, all the stuff. The mechanic is still working on the car (yikes) and has some nice loud music going. Zeze's brothers are here for night so they can look after the carwash tomorrow, and I'm getting hints that I'm supposed to go to bed so they can have a guys party. So I think I will comply. Good night!