Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teaching in Africa (Part 3)

One year at RVA is under our belt.  It was a great year.  God has blessed me with the chance to do something I’m passionate about (teaching math; I know, what a nerd!) and enjoy it immensely at the same time.  I can’t say enough about the students here.  As one staff member puts it, RVA is like teacher heaven.  So what has teaching for a year in Kenya taught me? 

DSC_0406One student’s attempt at my caricature for his art class. It was an honor to be chosen as his subject…I think. Could’ve been worse, right?

If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of Teaching in Africa, be sure to do that.  I’ve tried to point out a few of the blog-able aspects to teaching and serving here, things people back in the States may find interesting or unique.  Below, the list goes on, starting with a brief introduction (I realize that the end of the year is a bit late for an intro) to each of my classes.

DSCN693321.  1st period Algebra 1.  It was my pleasure to wake up to these crazies each morning ;)  Probably my quietest class, which was ironic considering it was also my largest – I think it had something to do with the nature of mixing Algebra with teenagers too early in the morning!

DSCN694822.  2nd period Algebra 1.  Lots of 8th graders.  Too entertaining to be considered a legitimate academic course; the most common response on year-end surveys was something along the lines of never having had so much fun in Math class :)

DSCN685623.  3rd period Math 7.  LOTS of energy in this room!  Brought back memories of student teaching in Beaver Falls Middle School  - gotta love that age group.  SOOO thankful that we had chapel and chai break immediately following this period ;)

DSCN695324.  4th period Algebra 1.  My smallest class and probably one of my favorites.  The perfect mix of studious-ness and silliness, if that makes any sense.  Love these kids!

DSCN685825.  5th period Algebra 1.  Mostly 9th grade students; this group was a big part of the reason Courtney and I decided to sponsor their upcoming sophomore class.  If there was a challenging class in my day, this was it, but it’s often the hardest ones that reap the most fruit and best relationships overall!  Great kids :)

26. Not that I couldn’t have done it at Beaver Falls, but I never bought a yearbook as a teacher.  The cost was probably the biggest reason.  But here, for about $15 you can purchase a yearbook (and they are really nice). RVA holds a great ceremony and class night when they pass yearbooks out to the students and any staff that are interested in purchasing one.  For the first time since high school, I found myself passing around my yearbook to be signed while signing many of my students’.  Kind of fun!

27. Alumni – Here at RVA we have a specific weekend at the end of term 3 set apart for alumni.  Aptly named Alumni Weekend, people from all over the world flock back to RVA to visit and reconnect.  There is a certain camaraderie that can be sensed among those that have lived and gone to school here.  The bond between classmates, regardless of the years gone by or miles between, is very strong. Lots of sports competitions between brave alumni and the current high school team are scheduled throughout the weekend.  Most of the time the students won, although in men’s basketball, the alumni had their way (and I got to be one of the referees!) 

DSC_0602Psyching up for the Varsity vs. Alumni rugby match.  This year the young fellas were too much for the old guys to handle; it was a great game though!

28. Goodbyes are much harder here.  Part of this is what typifies the life of a third culture kid (TCK), but on the mission field, farewells are frequent and sometimes very permanent.  Several students, whether graduating or moving on after this year for another reason, are leaving RVA and not returning.  Many tear-filled embraces take place on a regular basis here, with the understanding that the world is a big place and paths may or may not cross again this side of heaven.  It is extremely hard to watch and even harder to imagine watching our own kids do it one day.  Goodbyes are hands down the hardest part of being here. 

29.  Along the same vein is the staff turnover here.  We may have mentioned it in the past, but serving at a school where most staff members are volunteers relying on support from friends and churches back home ends up being a very transient vocation.  Probably 20 family units have left campus in the past 2 weeks.  Some have left for good after serving 3, 5 or 15 years or more here at RVA.  Others will be on home assignment for a term or for the next year.  Some were short term folks just passing through, filling in a position for someone else who will return in August.  When we came last August, the turnover was close to 50%, one of the highest in recent memory.  This year is close – many more goodbyes were said last week and staffing will look quite different as school begins in a month or so. 

30.  We’re not just here to teach them Math.  The opportunities to minister and pour into the lives of these students are endless.  I’ve had the privilege of starting two mentoring relationships with young men seeking to grow deeper in their walk with Christ, looking for accountability and encouragement from someone who’s been there and walked in their shoes (or at least in similar shoes – I was never in Africa as a teenager!)  As a family, we’ve connected with several students from this year’s freshman class through Caring Community and just inviting them over for popcorn on Sunday nights.  Because of the nature of a boarding school, as many times as you’re willing to keep your door open, you’ll have chances to invite students in – and they love it.  A home cooked meal is one of the best gifts we can give them.  Or maybe it’s a chance to wrestle with one of our boys or simply give Evie a hug (every 8th and 9th grade girl on campus ADORES her).  Living life with these students is a pleasure and an honor!

DSCN6852Our Caring Community group enjoying a rousing game of duck-duck-goose with our kids :)

DSCN6686“Hold on, Evie!”

DSCN6691Nothing like home-made pizza at the Schmidt’s!

Thanks for reading.  And we probably don’t say this enough, but a special thanks to all those who give so generously so that we can be here and love on these kids.  We can’t really describe in words how grateful we are for your support.  THANK YOU!!!

In our next post, you’ll get a chance to hear directly from the students.  Stay tuned!


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