I have been at Grace Center for one week now. I both live and work here so every morning I wake up to the beautiful sound of children playing. This can be comforting because it reminds me they are right there waiting to learn and be loved while it can also be terrifying because it reminds me I am supposed to somehow teach them English while I continue to struggle to pick up Bahasa Malaysia (BM). My first day of teaching was an interesting one. I thought I might watch or observe one or two classes even after being introduced to all the different classes. I may not have communicated this desire strongly enough because I walked into class expecting to watch and was given the class to teach. I grabbed the eraser off of the whiteboard and decided to play a name game by tossing the eraser around the room. This sounds great in theory, maybe even resourceful, however by the end of the day I had black smudges all over my face and neck. Any place I had tried to wipe away sweat was now full of black smudges and at one point I managed to even draw on my cheek with the whiteboard marker. I was literally a hot mess. Thankfully with teaching seems to come the natural instinct to laugh at oneself and it gave me a good opportunity to laugh with my students. I have mispronounced countless names and have had my students repeat them daily to the point where it seems painful. However, Friday I was able to recite every students’ name in at least two of my classes! Though another teacher told me one of my older classes said I am very serious (I’m ok with that for now J), I have sung silly songs, acted out words when language wasn’t cutting it, and have just been a goofball in general. This week has been all about getting to know my students and allowing them to get to know me. I’ve heard ahhs as I talk about how all the plants die in winter and snow covers the ground in Minnesota as well as gasps when I tell them about how long I sat in an airplane to get here. As I attempt to figure out how to teach them English they have been helping me learn words in BM here and there. It’s always fun when I whip out a new BM word I’ve learned. Suddenly I see light bulbs going off all around the room because their crazy teacher finally makes sense. Looking back on my week it was actually very fun but it is really truly so incredibly difficult. Walking into class the first day with no idea what I was going to do was absolutely frightening. While the odds seem to be stacked against me as I am jumping in almost at the end of their school year (their year starts in January and runs until November), I don’t know what they already know, I am inventing curriculum, I don’t have pre-made assessment tools, I don’t know their learning styles, and I have five classes ranging from approximately 3rd-9th grade (there is a mix of ages in each class), I am learning to just roll with it. On my way to each class I literally say a little prayer that together my students and I will learn something. I am trying to give myself grace in that if we do not learn complete sentences in this first week there are other important things to learn too. That being said my students have also shown me incredible grace. As I have butchered their names, struggled to communicate, and have given confusing directions, they always smile at me and ask how I am doing at the end of the day. Side note…I have a student named Delia (the second Delia I have ever met in my entire life)…clearly this placement was meant to be.
|My oldest classes made "facebook pages" to tell me about themselves!|
Aside from the teaching side of life I haven’t been perfect at adjusting to daily living either. I’ve messed up my schedule, been nervous about trying new food, clearly struggled with the heat, and found myself at a loss for words when I didn’t have the language I needed to say something. I just have to keep telling myself to roll with it and take baby steps. In general I’ve considered myself to be a “go with the flow” sort of personality but suddenly “rolling with it” has taken on a whole new meaning. Yet with all the adjustments I’m making, I have always felt loved and have truly enjoyed myself in the process.
Every week the teachers do fellowship together where we sing songs, discuss a bible passage, and pray together. This week the bible story was the feeding of the 5,000, an impossible task made possible through the hands of God’s people. It seemed all too relevant to my life right now. My adjustment to a completely new culture has seemed impossible at times and yet it is made possible through the hands of God’s people. There have been many beautiful moments of grace and understanding like my roommate’s mother bringing me dinner, another teacher asking the cook to make fried chicken for lunch after noticing my difficulty adjusting to a new diet, my students kindly redirecting me when I show up for class at the wrong time, and the companionship of all those around me despite language barriers. I imagine the people present at the feeding of the 5,000 had to use what they had to “roll with it” and together they accomplished the seemingly impossible. Here in my new community I imagine we too will accomplish miracles as we use what we have and come together to be both a school and a family.
|The road to Grace Center is lined with these wonderful flowers. They are one of the first things I see every morning.|