All posts tagged parenting inspiration

Need inspiration? Look at your kids.

I’m coming off of a fantastic Weekend Retreat, savoring the amazing stories, images and sounds that were shared. I’m not quite ready to share my thoughts about the retreat, so I went looking for an inspirational blog post that I could send our readers for a little dose of something that would prove engaging and interesting.

As my search went on, and on, and on, I was becoming a little disheartened — when suddenly Skype “pinged” me and I realized I had a message from Zoe.

Zoe is in Buenos Aires, working at a school in the heart of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. I worry about her. I worry about her every minute. And I balance that worry with my radical faith in her and the world at large.

This is the message from her, which she intends to share with family and friends, but wanted to pass by me first – it felt like just the right story for today.

Enjoy, Vicki.

Where I sit

    As I look up from cutting out cardboard hearts, dark smoke bellows over the man-made brick wall that encloses the school. I cough, shield my eyes and try not to inhale the smell of burning tires, the source of the smoke. Teachers yell at students to stay away from their “playground” for fear they will breathe too much of the harmful toxins.

    I walk outside, take a better look around. Outside, playing soccer, are six, seven-year-old boys. Their soccer ball, a flattened coke can. Their field, the dirt that engulfs the entire school. With sweat dripping down their grimy little faces from the intense heat, all I hear is – laughter. One boy takes a tumble, pauses, and is helped up by the other team only to carry on the game once again. Over and over, they kick and laugh and fall and help each other up again.

What I see

    This is what I encounter every day, a hundred times a day; kids with less than nothing making the most of everything.

    The school I work at, as you may imagine, is nothing like the schools in the states, but what I’m sure you can’t imagine, is why. The school is for three to fifteen-year-olds and is broken up into two groups; the morning and afternoon crews. By the time I arrive at the school each morning, all of the kids have already arrived, had their morning tea and gone to their classrooms.

    Each classroom has about twenty students, most with ADHD or ADD, so you can guess how the teachers feel by the end of the day. The rooms are all equipped with long desks seating about 6 students to a table with broken down chairs. Small, scratched, and broken black boards line one of the walls, artwork and posters, the others. In each room there are huge cupboards where each teacher stores various toys, art projects, paints, and other things necessary to run a classroom.

What I feel

    All this seems normal, something you might expect in any school. What you don’t expect, what isn’t normal is the cluster of flies swarming over head, the eerie creak of the half broken fan, found in only a few of the rooms, and the love the teachers have for each and every one of their students

    In the middle of a lesson, almost as though on cue, a student from another class interrupts the teacher. This disruption is usually, an older student, commonly known as the “troublemaker” looking for attention. The teacher kindly invites him to either shut the door and carry on with his day or sit down quietly because, “she has lessons to give.” Bored by not getting the attention they seek, they usually turn around and leave. No punishment is given out, no yelling is heard – just a kind response – a dozen times a day – the same thing.

    The school is free. Most students show up in the same clothes the entire week. The children’s main meals are at the school, which usually consists of a piece of fruit, water and pasta or a sandwich. But what I notice more than anything – as cheesy as this sounds – are their smiles. Yes – ear to ear smiles. Many of these kids have six or seven siblings and most members of the family, including their parents are missing most of their teeth. There are lots of toothless smiles at this school.

What I know to be true

    What I’ve noticed about this school, about these kids and about the teachers is that they are each others’ families. Many of them have been coming to the school since they were babies and have grown up with the same classmates for years. They know each other – where they are from – and the troubles they have at home. They know that once they ring the bell to the school and walk through the doors they are safe. Safe enough to forget their worries – worries they will pick up again as they leave the school yard and return home. They are connected in this way, in this safe place.

    The cooks know each child by name, what they like, what they are allergic to, and which ones need extra bread to take home at the end of the day. The teachers know which kids will be returning once again to their classroom next year because they just can’t understand why 2 times 2 is 4.

    These kids aren’t made fun of, they aren’t put in a special classroom. Instead, they are given more love from all. Not just from the teachers but from the other students, from the cooks, from the secretaries, and from us, the volunteers.

    These are just a few of the differences between this school and the schools in the states.

What we do

    As I finish cutting out cardboard hearts, I have adopted a six year old helper, Rodrigo, who I hand the half cut out hearts. He finishes – we share a high-five and move on to the next.

    There is a seven-year old girl, Celeste, playing with my rings and making up stories that I can only half understand. Another little girl has become my trash-picker-upper and is running around outside trying to catch all of the cardboard that is flying around.

    The four boys in the yellow room, all best friends and inseparable, have opened up each of their “Lays” chips — after jumping up and down discovering that they all had the same snack today. But more so, that they all had snacks. They dump each bag, half of them spilling on the floor, into a toy pot and are stirring them around as though making a stew of chips. They each take their turn eating a few at a time and when Dylan, the youngest in this class, asks for one, without hesitation he is given one and becomes part of the “crew” for this activity. The kids at this school share, everything. For people who literally have nothing most of the time they are the most generous and giving kids I have ever encountered. If one kid goes without, the others make sure he has, if one is hungry after finishing lunch, he is given the rest of someone else’s. Things are cut into 25ths, so that no one goes without and if someone can’t finish something it is never thrown away.

Who I am

    I am asked by several three year olds,

    “Como te llamas (what’s your name)”
    “Zoe,” I respond and after getting the hundredth weird look I settle on Soe, as they would say here in Argentina.
    “Oh Sol one says,
    “No,” I laugh, “ZZZZZZoeeee”
    “Mmhm” she responds and runs away to tell the other three year olds my name is Sol.

    As each child files out for the day I am given many kisses on the cheek and a “chau senor.” This is my day. Some days are harder than others and sometimes they are so good I can’t even explain them. Over time, the children have learned my name. They give me shy waves and many of them now jump on me as I walk in the door.

I will never be the same

    I am only three weeks here, not even, and this will be my first full week. The school is often closed for no reason that I can figure out. I am already making strong connections with many of the kids. I cannot even begin to think about what March 5th, my last day, will be like. Tears, smiles, hugs and kisses will only be the beginning. These kids are becoming a part of my life, and I am beginning to become a part of there’s. We are slowly starting to understand each other. I am beginning to understand what makes them tick and that what will work with one child will be a total flop with another.

    Mom, I am falling in love with these children. Will being a teacher always feel like this?

    Zoe