Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Full Day at School

Greetings from Dayton, lovely blog readers! Chelsea here. Some of us are just now getting back from our first full day of school in a very, very long time. An 8:30 start to the school day may make us college kids cringe, but these kids at St. Benedict the Moor elementary school are rock stars - they start every day at 7:50 (and some arrive even earlier than that) while most of us here are still fast asleep. 

That's not to say we haven't done quite a bit of work these past couple days though; those elementary school teachers sure have kept us busy! Grading math tests, correcting reading assignments, instructing small reading and math groups, playing cops and robbers in preschool, building castles in gym class, and teaching third graders the basics of feminism are just the tip of the iceberg. And yet, after seeing everything these teachers do themselves for their students, in and out of school, our contribution pales in comparison. A teacher who runs after-care was simultaneously trying to complete a half dozen different tasks and running around so frantically that she was literally out of breath. Asking to grade her stack of papers seemed like the least we could do, and she seemed quite relieved to have this additional item off her to-do list. The dedication, patience, and selflessness these teachers display almost every minute of their day is truly inspiring, and I hope to one day take up my career with as much passion as they do.

After a long week, the kids at school have reinvigorated our spirits, but simultaneously drained almost all our remaining energy. Supervising children is a notoriously difficult yet rewarding task. Children have a special knack for getting on our nerves sometimes, don't they? But somehow, at least in my case, children have a special knack for turning us into better versions of ourselves. I wouldn't consider myself a patient or silly person by any standards, but being around kids tends to illuminate the calm, fun, selfless nature in all of us, as only the simplicity of a child can. 

Some of the kids are much less well-behaved than their peers for a variety of reasons; I discovered yesterday that the school day was lengthened by a full hour this year, and being in school for at least eight hours a day takes a toll on many of the young students. Many have difficult home lives and suffer from food insecurity. A few are even almost a full year behind their peers in their curriculum, and despite the best efforts of the teachers and principal, little progress has been made. However, amazing things are still being done every day to provide these sunny children with the best education they can receive, and it feels good to know that our couple hours of tutoring after school are a small part of that. The school's dedication to its students and the children's incredible faith in God have truly touched me these past couple days. Being here at St. Benedict the Moor school has been an absolute privilege, and the rewarding feeling I left with today will carry on for the remainder of our trip. 

Speaking of... Only three more days until we're headed back to Pittsburgh! More updates will follow, so stay tuned!


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