Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Big Decision

"What drove your decision?"

My friend John asked me a fairly mundane question when I told him about a major decision Kate and I made recently. I stared at the Gchat (greatest communication tool since text messaging) and was totally unsure of how to best answer what should have been such an easy question.
Being in Haiti leads to experiential learning- moments that cannot be easily communicated to someone who wasn't there. Two such experiences explain my recent big decision.
First: Months ago I went to a soccer match at another prep school in Haiti. Their campus is great, in a very treed neighborhood in the shadow of a mountain. It is laid out perfectly- I often envy how centralized things are at their school. In this picturesque campus the students are grotesque little trolls. Horrible, spoiled brats that who act like the world exists to serve them and only them. Children and teenagers who seem to have never been told "no" and act with the dignity and grace of English football hooligans. Their team beat us. It was not even close. Their fans treated every goal like it was the winning goal of the World Cup. Their fans did back flips and ran circles on the field. Their teachers and coach watched ambivalently. After one score, when the game was well out of hand, a fan actually walked onto the field to trash-talk our goalie. My student shrugged it off much better than I would have. As I sat on the bleachers I realized that these mongrels are my students' friends, the same people they see on the weekends at parties and restaurants. These are the peers who influence them, who model what is right and wrong. What rotten models. This is the other American school. If you don't come to QCS, this is what you can get- entitled students and enabling teachers.

Second: There is a really popular book that encourages people to teach "like their hair is on fire". I take that a different direction. I teach like my pants are on fire. I embrace my ADD and run around the classroom in a near-chaotic fashion that is hopefully more energetic than it is manic. Because I teach this way, I am literally all over the classroom, always roaming and keeping students on their toes. A down-side is that my back is briefly turned to parts of the class. In early December I was marching around, raving and lecturing, and it took a student multiple tries to get my attention. One of the classmates had begun seizing in the middle of class. Quickly, but in a very cool, nonchalant manner, I moved everyone else into the hall and sent one student for the nurse. A few of the student's friends were looking through the glass in my window and were upset by seeing her seize. I shoo-ed them out of the high school building entirely. My dear, sick student had a very bad day. She seized off and on for over an hour. I walked outside to get her mother who was close by and a group of the girl's classmates were sitting on the stone pavement, holding hands, heads bowed praying.

My students are not perfect. They lie to me. They whine. But they are respectful, principled and caring. They may not always display it in class, but they can act with self-restraint. In the throws of teaching I might miss it, but the urging about character and faith are getting through. The prayers and the conversations and the work is not in vain.

Those were two moments that encapsulated why I made my decision.

What decision,  you ask?

Katie and I
are staying
at Quisqueya Christian School
for
another school year.

2012-2013 here we come.

Ben

1 comment:

  1. I've been following your blog from Auburn, AL (War Eagle) for about a year, and this is FANTASTIC news. I feel like I know both of you, and I love hearing about your life in Haiti. Praying for y'all! God Bless!

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