Hard to believe I’ve been here over a month now, that I’m actually in my 6th week of teaching! Really?!? Que raro… Time certainly does fly here, at an even faster pace than it ever seemed to at home. Each day in the classroom I’m amazed at how we seem to jump from morning meeting to lunch and then suddenly the buses are here. Last week, one of my most unique and hilarious students, Joaquin, exclaimed with a huge grin as we were lining up for almuerzo, “Whoa! The day’s more than half way over—I like being in your class!”
I forget how fun school can be at this age—we are erupting our homemade, exceptionally-decorated volcanoes tomorrow in a huge competition between the horribly disadvantaged 4th graders. They don’t have a chance. The rest of the elementary school is voting on the best experiment, based on volume of eruption and creativity in design.
We have been acting out scenes from our class read aloud, C.S. Lewis’ Silver Chair, and plan on coordinating a play soon for the rest of the school (yet to be determined). We are learning how to write like real authors, and the creations these students invent blow me away. Math has been quite a challenge, as I’ve come to realize that conceptually most of the students are years behind where they should be, although I love pushing them and seeing them achieve far beyond what they believe they’re capable of.
One struggle I face daily is how to empower them to think critically. We always want to be spoon-fed information, don’t we? Often in our laziness we forget the joy of discovery and attempt to purchase the quick answer, or buy the easy way out. In my students' responses I see how we are conditioned to be passive, choosing not to search in a way that requires too much effort. Perhaps one of the greatest joys of this job is asking a deep, thought-provoking question, sitting back as they turn to each other waiting for someone else to take charge, when all of a sudden a student erupts with, “oh- I think I know!” and an arm flings high in the air, often accompanied by a half-hop out of the student’s seat. I delight in seeing the light bulb not only click on in one’s mind but blind the rest of the class as well.
We recently put together a huge puzzle we like to call the “Big Picture,” under which the caption reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” I found a beautiful scenery photo in National Geographic and cut it into 30 tiny squares. As a class, we all worked on translating the image found on each of our squares onto much larger proportional blocks of paper. Finally, we put all the pieces together, having never before seen the original picture as a class. The result, which is now proudly displayed on the wall for everyone to admire, is a far from perfect yet stunningly beautiful composition of every student’s best work. When we look at each frame apart from the big picture, it’s hardly more than random colors and seemingly aimless lines. However, when you step back, our big picture is truly awesome. In our class discussions surrounding the project, I have loved hearing the students outwardly process this abstract idea, that perhaps we don’t see it all. It serves as an encouragement that maybe God is up to something far greater and more astounding and good than we realize in the midst.
Quite simply, I truly love it here—I could not be more thankful to be living in this place. I’m patiently but diligently “apprendiendo espanol poco a poco.” No one told me that learning by immersion doesn’t mean that you merely soak up the language like a sponge in water; the process of learning in spite of my dense mind is far more awkward and exhausting and unnatural than I can accurately relay. Yet thankfully I have time, and I’m committed to learning to really communicate. It’s amazing the repercussions the Tower of Babel has on our lives even still-
My Bolivian family is an embodiment of real joy and true generosity and genuine patience. My students are a blessing and in their hugs and surprising encouragement I sense God reminding me that their lives are going to humble me and teach me a love that knows no bounds. My relationship with Tim has grown and deepened since being here, and we are both awed by how the Lord continues to draw us together despite distance and grant such delight in praying for each other in the absence of daily communication.
So, as I listen to the French artist Manu Chao (I highly recommend downloading “Bongo Bong” or “Me gustas tu”) in order to connect to Bolivian pop-culture and improve mi espanol (and now I’m just addicted to the music), I want to leave you with this:
“Let the WORD of Christ dwell in you richly,
teaching and admonishing one another in ALL wisdom,
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Let us be immersed yet truly soak up the Word no matter the cost of the search,
and encourage one another to keep an eternal, big-picture perspective,
all the while worshipping in whatever place and role and stage we find ourselves in,
and live in gratitude for all we’ve been given that we will never deserve-
Merry early V-Day friends:)