Yes, it’s hard to believe that our first school year has ended as of October 11th, 2013.
Jackelyn and I can finally raise our head above the water! We really felt like this was baptism by fire but we did it. It has been an incredible learning curve for me. Unfamiliar to the Montessori method of teaching, I have had to learn simply to observe the children as they interacted with the materials each day. Even learning how to present the material taught me to slow down……really sloooooooowwwww down. But one of the benefits is that you learn to be present. And isn’t that one of the hardest things to learn nowadays? Be present. Be aware of what is in front of you or who is in front of you at this present moment. And learning to observe the children was not easy. In a traditional classroom it’s more of who is misbehaving or talking or not doing their work. But we are learning to watch to see how focused the child is on their ‘work’. And they do focus. What I found amazing was at the end of the school year, we had the children share what they would miss the most here and instead of playing, which I thought would be the response, it was ‘the work!’.
The children are natural learners and just as we have learned through Maria Montessori’s philosophy, the children will advance to the next stage when they are ready. I’m so grateful for the donation of the materials. The children really do learn better with the concrete learning materials rather than standing in front of them with their notebooks out. We’ve taught them to respect the materials and they know that the school and the materials are theirs. That way they learn stewardship. Their mothers shared with us how much their child has changed and we are encouraged to continue to learn all that we can. Right now, I am taking an on-line class called KHT Montessori and it is wonderful. The manuals they provide will provide so much more learning opportunities for the children as well as help Jackelyn and I feel more confident in the future. The woman who teaches us is so helpful and so knowledgeable. We sent Jackelyn also to Mexico this past year for a 3 week intensive.
But as with learning in general, it never ends.
This school year really was all absorbing but right now I want to focus on the afternoon children as I feel that my attention was taken away for awhile to focus on the school. Right now I’m trying to slow down, be present, and do some things that have nothing to do with teaching children such as pulling weeds from our overgrown gardens! I’ve actually found it rather meditative. Gardening can really help to slow my mind down and help me to just enjoy being outdoors. I actually sat in the chapel alone yesterday morning with my cup of coffee praying. It felt like it had been too long since I have taken the time to talk to God. Like people back home you feel like you have more things to do than you have daylight. I need to remind myself that being in the moment is important and to watch for those ‘divine interruptions’ in my day, like people showing up unexpectedly, which can be a common occurrence here. God had to remind me awhile back that folding laundry is not more important than sitting down with a couple of children and spending time reading to them or having a conversation. The ‘stuff’ can wait. I’ll be merciful to myself and say that I’m learning this lesson. One day the weather was so beautiful I changed our plans at school and we hiked the property with the children. We had a great time! What was most precious to me was climbing a very steep part of the property, which was rather muddy after the rains, and watching one of my boys helping the little girls by holding their hands and helping them maneuver over around the coffee plants. He has turned into a little gentleman. Afterwards, we roasted marshmallows in our fire pit that Will had built on the back patio….
P.S. no….I was not the only one eating them!
All in all, I am in awe of having a school and I see how important it is to steward it well and how important these children are to the future of Guatemala. I love each and every one of them and am so glad that we started slowly with just 13, I think I may have been overwhelmed otherwise. I came to know them individually, their personalities, strengths and weaknesses. One thing is clear, they all respond to love!