Monday, June 17, 2013

First day of the last week of teaching here at Tumaini. We feel as though we’re sort of on vacation, with only the two hours in the morning and “God and I Time” to cover.

One of our group is a little under the weather—nothing serious—but we split his/her class between a couple of other teachers, and we’re ready for the day. My fifth-graders seem a little bored, but otherwise the day is routine for me. Some of the others are having much more difficult behavioral problems, though, and they have to remind themselves of the basic rule of teaching: you take the student from where he is, as far as you can toward where he ought to be. If he starts out with all kinds of behavioral issues, then perhaps all you can accomplish is to keep him from dismembering himself before your very eyes; you set reasonable goals and avoid the urge to be Superteacher.

Something common to our kids really puzzles us. They eat everything. I don’t mean at meals, or even just food. They eat everything. OK, I understand chewing on pens; the whole world does that. But sticks, rocks, bottle caps lying discarded on the ground, pieces of metal. Catherine’s students begin dismembering the table they’re sitting at and eating it. It’s a major deal to keep these kids from hurting themselves with the stuff they put in their mouths. They must have immune systems made of titanium.

And this eating thing is not because they’re hungry; they get monstrous portions at every meal, probably 3 or 4 times what I could eat, and often they throw away a considerable chunk of it.

And that’s just one behavioral issue. There are a couple of bullies in the student body, and lots of other issues to deal with. Our kids are being stretched, and they’re getting an important lesson in human nature as they prepare for teaching careers.

Beth has prepared enchiladas for lunch. They’re really remarkable, most noticeably because they’re smothered in melted cheese. Dairy is expensive here and thus a real treat. To see this much cheese is a rare thing, and to be served more than we can eat is just stupendous. That’ll last 2 meals, I think.

With the afternoon off, we have some time to hold a skit practice for Wednesday’s “fun night,” catch up on personal study, and maybe even catch a nap. Which I do.

Wake up just before game time. This will be tricky; we’re doing “The Cat in the Hat,” where I read the book, and the kids play musical chairs every time I say the words “mother,” “fish,” “Sally,” or “the Cat in the Hat.” Just explaining the game to 50 small kids is tricky enough; when they’ve had only 2 years of English, it’s chaotic. It looks for all the world like it’s not going to work, but the team pulls it off with patience and poise, demonstrating, having the kids demonstrate, coaching, correcting, cheering, congratulating.

Jon asks me to announce the winner. I remind the kids that the low score wins. Then I read the scores: Blue 20, Red 28. The red team bursts into cheers. Oh, well, Jon says. Doesn’t matter; we’ll just keep track of it all and announce the final winner at the end of the week. They’re having a good time, so it doesn’t really matter who won. So, I say to Beth, we’re going all existentialist, post-modern on them. As long as they’re happy, that’s all that matters. 🙂

At 5, as usual, we all read individually with students. My Standard 5 boy is reading from a BJU Press 1st grade reader, which is well below his level, or so I think, but he’s clearly having trouble with comprehension. So we take our time, I explain words as necessary, and he does OK. I note with some surprise that he confuses his L’s and R’s, as some Asians do. Swahili has both letters, with the same sounds as in English, so it puzzles me that he has the problem. You learn all kinds of things teaching overseas.

Supper with the kids is rice and beans. It’s our favorite meal at Tumaini. There is the occasional problem of gravel, but you get used to it. 🙂 After supper, as usual, it’s devotions with the kids in their dorms / houses and then team devotions back at the guest house. We have a couple of encouraging emails to read, one from Rob Howell, a former (very former) Africa Team member who got this whole Tumaini thing started, and one from the Loeschers, detailing what’s been happening there and the important part the Cameroon contingent has played, by God’s grace. More on that in a few days.

There’s a fair amount of planning to do for the games and related activities for tomorrow, so the team gets to work on that. More or less in the middle of it, I realize how tired I am, and I head for bed. Wise choice.

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Dan Olinger

Chair, Division of Bible in the BJU School of Religion.

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