Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Autumn in the Air

Walking into school this morning, I realized that the weather felt surprisingly similar to Michigan around this time of year. It was quite chilly and the ground was frosted with morning dew. The mornings and evenings are becoming colder here, making me wish that I had packed more pants and long sleeves. Soon it will be winter in South Africa, and the rains will become more frequent and predictable (or so I hear).

Every day with my Grade 3 children is a different experience. Some days I keep constantly busy, some days are slow, some days are overwhelming, and some days are joyous. Through it all, I am savoring every moment that I am given with these students. They are full of life, energy, and love. My teacher shows her heart for the children daily and I am always pleased to help her in any way that I can. My respect for her grows each time I am placed in a difficult situation during the school day.

Today I read the story "Morris Goes to School" to my students. It's about a moose named Morris who learns to count and read at school. The children got a kick out of it and seemed to interact with the text quite well. We discussed the genre of 'fantasy,' main idea, characters, and beginning/middle/end. They were engaged and very well behaved throughout the lesson, and they were able to document the experience by drawing pictures in their "creative workbooks" of the story. After coming to realize the difficulties many students have with reading comprehension due in part to language issues, I was impressed by the quality of their discussion and responses.

I also had the opportunity to improv teach a Grade 6 class last week. Their teacher came up to my room to request that I watch his class while he went to a meeting... of course I was willing and soon found myself in an Afrikaans speaking classroom full of twelve year olds with very little direction from the teacher. Instead of telling them to quiet down and read for who knows how long, I decided to do an interactive lesson with them on probability that I had learned in one of my math classes. I whipped out my handy unifix cubes and began teaching, hoping that they knew enough English to be able to understand and communicate with me. Although at the time the experience was difficult and frustrating due to their behavior, I look back on it fondly-- because I survived, had them engaging in probabilistic reasoning, and came to appreciate my own nine year old students in a new and significant way. Not necessarily something I would want to do again... but a good experience nonetheless. I am coming to find that God's plan for me (and others) here is much more meaningful than I/we realize at the time. His purpose may not be immediately clear, but it exists in very powerful ways that hopefully we are able to eventually discover.

The first weekend after school was spent in a beautiful beach house in Pringle Bay. To exit the house, you must first walk over a small sand dune to be surrounded by a beautiful sandy beach, the Atlantic Ocean, and mountainous landscape. It was gorgeous and the weekend was full of relaxation, delicious food, game playing, enjoying the outdoors, and laughter. Andrea and I found a small non-denom church on Sunday morning... and though we were some of the only people under the age 60 in attendance, everyone was very welcoming and we were glad that we went.

After school, I have spent time with my host family and group members, gone for walks, cooked and ate wonderful meals, prepared for teaching, and shopped around Stellenbosch. I continue to absolutely love my time spent here in this country, in this town, in this school, and in this home.

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