I went to class today.
As I arrived at the third floor of the building that looks out over the Great Rift Valley, there was a group of students standing at the doorway of the classroom I was aiming for. They were busy talking about some last minute schedule changes. Entering the room, there were maybe 20 students already seated, filling out the obligatory first-day survey and textbook cards. There weren’t any seats available, so I sat at a table in the back. That’s when my dad looked up, noticed me and smiled. After a long day of introducing students to his U.S. History and American Government classes, I could tell he was tired.
But I’ve never been more proud.
My dad is the second Mr. Schmidt that many of his students have met here at RVA. When I came 3 years ago, I struggled to pronounce some of the same names he fumbled over today. His go to phrase over the past week has been, “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, and he’s certainly not in Alden, teaching at the public high school where he began and [thought he] ended his teaching career. Although he mastered the art of pronouncing some of the Polish-American “ski’s” that make up much of Western NY’s populous, nothing prepared him for the Korean or Kenyan names he saw today. By 7th period, when I sat in, he simply smiled when he got to another one he knew he’d butcher, and then humbly asked a student nearby to translate for him.
The students were extremely polite…and quiet! I remember being blown away my first day at how quiet everyone was, not sure if it was out of fear or respect. I now know the answer, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with teaching here.
Many of the “kids” are hardly that anymore. Most are seniors and Dad congratulated them on finally reaching the top of the pack. He talked about political cartoons and faith, liberals and conservatives, cultural clichés and mandatory textbook covers. I could tell he was in his element – this isn’t his first time teaching American Government.
But it is his first time teaching in Africa.
I’ve learned innumerable lessons from my father over the years. The greatest irony in all of this was when the principal asked me if I’d be willing to be my dad’s mentor teacher. I laughed out loud and then realized he was serious. How do you mentor someone who’s been your mentor?
I may have the title this time around, but the way I’ve witnessed my parents’ walk in obedience over the past few months has mentored and encouraged and challenged me in ways that I’ll never hold a candle to as I attempt to support Dad in his new role.
Thanks Mom and Dad. Thanks for loving Jesus enough to do things that are hard and scary and new. I can already see the impact you’re going to have on these students – they may or may not talk your ear off over the next few months, but I can assure you they notice your obedience, they admire it, and they won’t soon forget it.
I know I won’t.