Monday, December 6, 2010

If you haven't heard yet...

So I have some really exciting news that's only about three weeks old. Whoops. See, it was so exciting that I called my family, baked banana cookies, smothered these little ones in hugs and kisses, and called it a day. Now I realize that the blog post I intended to write was never written (see how convenient the passive voice is, I don't have to take responsibility for my poor communication).

Here we go...brace yourselves...(getting to break the news a second time is way too much fun!)

All of the girls from first through seventh grade...(I have no way to effectively pull off a dramatic pause in writing)...every single one of them...(I swear I really will tell you now)... passed! In every subject!!!

I know. I know. Whoopdidoo, right? But seriously, last year at this time, when I started teaching summer classes in the hogar, every one of them had failed at least one subject, if not the entire grade. They were out of control behaviorally, embarrassed and self-concious, hostile towards their peers, their teachers, and me during their classes, and shockingly behind their peers academically. That was one year ago.

I got to tell the eight girls I work most intensively with myself and I wish I could have preserved that moment somehow. Even the too-cool ten year olds squealed and giggled and hugged eachother. That is, after they kept asking me "are you SURE? Did my teacher know you guys were talking about ME?" That's right my little friend, we most definitely were talking about YOU and how smart I always told you you are!!!

I wish I could express what an incredible turn around this is, how proud I am of the girls, how positively this impacts their self-esteem, what a dramatic difference it makes to set them back on course while they're young, etc. This also has such a great impact on the hogar. The older girls were shocked too, and had to rethink the way they talk about the little ones like they're dumb. Both inside and outside the hogar, we got a chance to show what these girls are capable of and I pray the effects will continue in to the next school year, which begins in February.

This was also a really wonderful moment for me, not just through the empathetic celebration I get to have with the girls. A lot of people have a very romanticized view of orphanages. The truth is, the kids can be really tough. Trying to take on their educational needs has been a rough road and there are many days, sitting through time-outs, getting sassed by fourth graders, searching for my students hidden under their beds, sitting through dismal meetings with teachers, when I felt defeated, racking my brain for a sixth new way to respond to "I don't get it".

But I kept reminding myself that if I gave up on this task, I was giving up on these girls. No matter how much they fought back I wanted them to know that I believed in their ability to succeed, even if most days it seemed they wished that I didn't. Every person has value, and every one of these girls deserves the chance to see what she's capable of. And they did it!! The struggle through the school year was not in vain because these girls, unbeknownst to them, are diamonds in the rough. It is such a blessing to be able to polish them up and show them that!

And now we're in the lazy days of summer break. The little ones are practicing reading and basic math every day and the older elementary students have a one-hour class each weekday to keep their hard-won skills fresh and that's about it. It's nowhere near the exhausting marathon of classes and tutoring and tantrums that it was throughout the entire last year beginning with summer break, especially when divided between my new site-partner Mary Pat and I. At first I felt a little guilty about all the new free time, but looking back over the year I think we ALL deserve a little rest.

God has answered my prayers for these girls and blessed me trumendously by allowing me to see the fruits of this challenging year! My prayer for you all is that, at least once in your professional or vocational life, you have a moment like this that affirms the beliefs and hopes that push you onward every day.

And just think...if I had left in August I would have missed it!

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