It Only Takes One: The Girl Who is Still Changing Me

There is a little girl in my class this year who has changed my world. She visits the hospital every month, or more, depending on her lungs. Before she comes to school she has to do physiotherapy and when she gets home she has to do it again. She takes salt tablets and creon pills (her enzymes don’t work like ours do) before eating. Every time she eats. She needs to wear face masks frequently to protect herself from germs. A common cold to a healthy young child is a sickness that could hospitalize her for months. Or worse…

Every day she comes to school in pain. Every day.

Are you picturing a sad little girl in your mind? I think I would. But let me tell you, this small, redheaded, beautiful child, is anything but sad. She makes having Cystic Fibrosis seem like so much fun that half of her classmates want to have it too. I wish those students could see the times when the nurse visits during school to change her PICC line and painful cries fill the classroom while the rest of her friends are outside playing. Yet, she worries more about the boy who is gluten intolerant in our class than she does about herself.

Yes, there are times she arrives at my classroom door crying because her stomach or head hurts even more than usual, or her body aches. But within minutes of those tougher than usual days she is smiling, laughing and telling me about something her little brother did that morning. She recently spent five days in the hospital and showed up Monday morning with her physio bag and the biggest smile on her face, so excited to tell me about her time in the hospital. Even though the week before I received a picture from her mum of her after surgery, looking like she had been hit by a bus. She wanted to tell me about her hospital room and how she woke up in the morning super confused because she thought it looked so much like her own bedroom. Never once did she mention how much it hurt. 

Her smile brings me and her classmates so much joy. She is a rockstar on the monkey bars. She is a gifted artist. Even as I write these words, tears are in my eyes when I think about her. I was terrified at the beginning of the year when this precious child was placed in my care, in my class. I am still scared. But I am also grateful.

Grateful that a five year old has taught me so much about joy, love, and how to live.

Has anyone changed your view point lately?

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Embracing International

This week I was approached by a concerned mother.  We are in the second week of school. Her daughter is in my class. She explained to me that her daughter is now learning in her fourth language. Her mother tongue is Ukrainian, last year she was educated at a Korean school, and she has met and learned to communicate with several friends in Russian. Now, she tackles English.

Mind blown.

Last week I started teaching at my fourth international school in five years. I know, the resume is not looking so hot. But I will say that it is a privilege (though also super inconvenient) to teach multiple grade levels and work in many completely different work environments in such a short amount of time.

My first two years I worked at a school where 99 percent of my classes were Korean-Americans. My third year I had my tiny beautiful class of two Ethiopians, a Kenyan, two Korean-Americans, and one half British/half Korean. Last year, I taught a class full of Koreans who could read and write almost better than I could by the end of Kindergarten.

This year. This year is different from all of the others. This year I have 18 students. The largest class I have ever taught (I can almost hear the gasps from the public school teachers in the States who have to deal with twice that number of students…my answer to you is to teach abroad!) and the most diverse. My class is truly, international.

I don’t actually have a majority race amongst my students. There are Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, and Korean-American students. And of course my Ukrainian girl. My Malaysian student’s mother-tongue is actually Dutch and my Vietnamese students speak fluent Korean.

When they decided to shift from using the term ESL (English as a Second Language) to ELL (English Language Learners) I am now fully realizing why.

It is going to be a wonderful year.

The first two weeks of school The last month of work has been an insane whirl-wind. But I promise summer photos to come! I was able to travel to Europe and back the States during my break.

This life. So blessed.

 

An Open Letter to Parents

Today, I was peed on while I held back a girl’s hair so that she could puke into a sink. This was an hour or two after I already cleaned up said girl’s puke from a table and the floor. No, I am not in college.  Never RSVPed to those kinds of parties anyway…

No, no party. Just a typical day in the life of a Kindergarten teacher.

Due to this experience, as well as a few others of sick children coming to school I have decided to write an open letter to any and all parents who have thought about or followed through with sending their child to school ill.

Dear Parents,

Teachers are not baby-sitters. When your child pukes three times before school that is a good indication that she/he should STAY HOME.  If your child wants to go to school, of course you should still send them to a classroom where kids regularly forget to wash their hands (no matter how many reminders they get), kiss each other in fake weddings (Kindergarten is where it happens), and rub their booger loving fingers over every and any surface. Because the child obviously knows what’s best, and the smaller ones actually like school. A lot. So yeah, send them please, especially when they have a slight fever and say that are a-okay. The child knows what’s best.

Earlier this year my grade-teaching partner missed two days of school after being sick all weekend because a student in his class came to school the Monday and Tuesday of the week before while he was sick (the boy missed the rest of the week of school). The same two days my grade teaching partner was out 8-11 kids out of the 27 Kindergartners from both classes were home sick. This helped me out since I had to teach both classes, actually. Throughout the next two weeks different kids were dropping like flies, not being able to come to school because they kept getting each other sick. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS when you send a child to school with a virus. The sickness SPREADS.

This is a true story, a girl showed up to school and said, “I threw up twice this morning.” What? WHY ARE YOU HERE? This girl threw up again before lunch and was sent home. Sorry, that wasn’t really addressed to you, the parents, it was just an example.

Here’s another example. A parent actually told her daughter not to eat lunch at school because she knew she was sending her to school with a virus that the girl’s little brother was just getting over. After the girl puked twice, peed her pants, and was waiting in the nurse’s office to be picked up she told me through sniffles that her little brother had thrown up five times. She was implying that she was glad she had only thrown up twice. How do I know this? Because she said it and then smiled. This is before she told me her mom told her not to eat lunch.

I am not making this up.

Is there really anything I can write in this letter that you don’t already know, dear parents? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe…Could you think about the teachers who invest an obscene amount of time into trying to create the next generation of responsible, educated, adults? Teachers. Not baby-sitters (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with baby-sitters, I have done that job too.)

Teaching is so much more effective when we aren’t cleaning up puke and washing pee off of our pants.

Sincerely,

A teacher who really does love her job and will continue to clean up puke and poop (yes, that happens too).

Imagination Station

“Think of the art that we haven’t seen, the jobs that haven’t been created, and the productivity that hasn’t been imagined because generations have been persuaded not to dream big.”

This is the most recent line I read from Seth Godin’s manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams”. I blog about the book briefly on my educational blog, Two Apples A Day.

Today I gave my students ten minutes to ask me ANY question they could think of. They asked a lot of questions about North Korea, they asked me how old I was (I didn’t say I would answer all the questions!), and they asked about God. At the end of the day I ransacked my room and put a bunch of random stuff in the middle of our big classroom table (coffee filters, popsicle sticks, bingo stampers, straws, markers, crayons, glue sticks, tape, colored fuzz balls, etc). I told my children to make whatever they wanted. It was so cute, and a little sad, at how long it took them to really get into the assignment. They were excited, but also full of questions. “What do I make?” “Can I make more than one thing?” “What should I use?”

One of my students made a beautiful flower, another student made a metal detector (‘To find treasure!”), another student made a face, there was a ‘spy glass’,  fry pan (that was also a phone), and other things that I forgot! I can’t wait to do this more in the future. I want my students to create things that don’t exist yet, and to use their imagination!

face flower metal detector phonefrypanandmuchmore

I love my students.

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One should never aim to fall, especially into the street.

And when I say I fell, I mean I fell… HARD. A total wipe out.

I was half walking/half jogging— basically I was keeping a brisk pace, as one says, when I turned the corner and saw a glimpse of a blue bus. As soon as I picked up my speed to catch said blue bus I tripped (I want to say there was a huge rock that suddenly appeared, or a dog that ran under my feet— but I try not to lie) over the un-even sidewalk that makes up the majority of this lovely city (truth), and literally FLEW face first/palms first/hips first/ legs first/every part of my body first into the street. I should go see if there are CCTVs for that intersection, as I am sure it was quite the picture.

As I am falling/flailing, and scraping the majority of my body, I hear an adjuma on the sidewalk, “Aigoo! Aigoo! Aigoo!” (which roughly translated means, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!”). As I try to move my broken body I turn to gasp out a quick, “I am OK.” (though I was totally NOT OK), but when I managed to pick myself up from the road (and now that I am thinking about it, thank goodness I didn’t get hit by a car) the seemingly concerned adjuma is gone. Hmmm… No time to think about the adjuma, even as my entire body is aching and crying out my first thought is, “MY CAMERA, MY CAMERA, MY CAMERA!” Praise the Lord it was OK, my body must have cushioned its fall.

I look up to see the bus go by, and it isn’t even the bus I needed to take.

I wait for the right bus, thinking that my entire left shin is bleeding. I am literally staring at my leg waiting for the stain to appear on my jeans, and when it doesn’t I start assessing the rest of the damage. Two badly scraped palms, two bleeding knuckles, and my right hip showing a nasty mark with many popped blood vessels beneath the service of my skin. None of it came close to the pain I felt in my leg though.

And for good reason. I shall leave you with the bruises. When I showed my leg to my students on Monday, the only thing they had to say was, “Ms. Welton, what is a bruise?” Well, at least my fall turned into a “teachable moment”.

 

Day Three                                                           Day Five

Did I mention that I was still five minutes early to meet my friends that night? I need to become more event oriented for my own safety.

the boyfriend

I was chatting with a co-worker today, he wanted an update on the boyfriend situation.

In my classroom.

You see, I was home-schooled (shocking, I know), and I had no idea that relationships started as young kindergarten. I really didn’t know!

Near the beginning of the school year, Remi (just made up that name) told me that she had two boyfriends. TWO? I asked her, shocked, then I informed her that normally, you only have one boyfriend. She didn’t seem bothered by this.

Here’s the thing, originally she had a huge crush on Jeffy (remember, names are all made up) and decided she was his girlfriend without him even knowing  it (as many of us females still tend to do). Then… enter Jack, who decides that he really wants to be Remi’s boyfriend, and so she thinks, sure I will just have two.

After about a day or so, Jeffy is completely out of the picture— and seemed unphased by the whole ordeal (I am not even sure if he knew it happened, in fact I am almost positive he had NO IDEA)— and it was Remi and Jack, boyfriend and girlfriend. I kept hearing, “I want to sit by my girlfriend.” and, “Ms. Welton I drew this for Jack, because he is my boyfriend.”

Is anyone else shocked by this? KINDERGARTEN.

It’s not over… because this week, after about a month of bliss, Remi has decided that she has had enough. Jack said something mean and Remi responded with, “Well fine, you are not my boyfriend anymore.”

Jack’s face immediately changes, “What? Why? We are fine. We are fine!” And he refuses to accept the break-up. He kept repeating the line, “We are fine” and threw in a couple of other phrases to encourage himself… I wasn’t about to be the one to break it to him. Remi was done. Then, Jack changes tactics and says, “I am going to get a new girlfriend. And she is not going to be in this class!” After about five minutes though, I hear him call Remi his girlfriend again, can’t break the habit.

During snack time later that same afternoon one of my first-grade girls, Elly, who is Remi’s best friend, tried to explain to Jack that while, “Remi still likes you, she just wants to be your friend— not your girlfriend.” I heard this conversation from my desk and couldn’t help smiling. Elly was trying to be soft, but firm. Such a little adult.

It’s been three or four days since then, and Jack is still in denial— standing by Remi whenever he can, and putting his arm around her saying, “I want to sit by my girlfriend!” Today, after hearing it all week, I was the one to tell him. “Jack, Remi has made it very clear that, while she still wants to be your friend, she does NOT want to be your girlfriend. Okay?”

It was a sad smile, the one I received. Poor Jack. I am sure he will be okay on Monday.

In other news, Jeffy managed to open up the printing ink jar within the first ten minutes of school one day last week. He smeared black ink over the entirety of his two hands. He still had charcoal palms and fingers after three washings, they were stained the whole day. Didn’t phase him. Can’t keep a girlfriend I didn’t know I had, and I have stained black hands? Another day in the life of Jeffy.

I love Kindergarten.

putting it into practice immediately

After a crazy, Holy Spirit filled, weekend… I started my week off by putting into practice a few things I learned. As I said in my last post, there is no junior Holy Spirit. My students can hear from God, the same way I can. One of the speakers this weekend mentioned that he has heard of parents having their children practice listening to God on a daily basis, and one mother has a four-year-old daughter who is sitting quietly, listening to God for up to forty minutes a day. At FOUR.

On Monday, I explained to my students that we communicate to God through the Holy Spirit, and He talks to each of us, we just have to learn how to listen… and it might take practice. So, after read aloud, we turned the lights in the classroom off and laid on our rug. I set the timer for five minutes, and told them to think about God— and try to listen.

I will admit, five minutes after lunch in a dark room, it was hard for me to listen the whole time (and it was only five minutes!). I am so excited to get practice in this too. I heard God tell me that he loves each and every one of my students the same, and that I need to love them the same as well. He also told me to not go on facebook as much as I do (haha, got it God, I am reminded of Pastor Christian’s sermon, don’t let facebook rob you, and I am appropriately convicted).

Once the timer went off, the lights went back on, and my students sat up, I took turns asking each one if they heard from God. Several of them told me that they prayed, I told them that was good. Praying is talking to God, but after we pray, then it is important to listen. I mentioned that it was okay if they didn’t hear God right away, we would keep practicing.

Then, I got to my second to last student, “Did you hear God talk to you?” He nodded and gave a very confident, “Yes.”  I got pretty excited (obviously). “What did He say?”

“God told me that not only is preaching important, but praying and reading your Bible is also very important.”

My jaw almost hit the floor. I picked it back up and smiled, this was one of my kindergarten students, who actually can’t even read yet, telling me we need to pray and read as well as listen to the word being preached. That is definitely NO junior Holy Spirit.

Once we went around the whole room one of my first graders asked, “But, how can God speak to all of us at the same time?”

We have already talked about how God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient in chapel so I brought those words up again, and reminded them what they meant. I told them because he is God, he can speak to us all at the same time, and say different things.

And I can’t wait to hear what He speaks to us today!