It is so hard to believe more than one whole week of school is behind us already! Talk about time flying! I can only praise the Lord for bringing me through, and not just that, but also making one of the most fun weeks of my life! It was one miracle after another…
Sunday, July 7, was a little (OK, more than a little!) stressful, but exciting as well. Not just for me, but for a lot of the staff here at S.O. (stressful especially Hannah Steck, who is like everyone’s personal assistant since she can speak Karen. No joke). With school starting on Monday, there was a lot of preparation that still needed to be done. People were running to and fro all day.
I didn’t find out until I think it was that afternoon that on Monday there would be no classes, but rather we would be giving the students their notebooks, pens, and pencils, taking attendance, as well as getting their picture, height, and weight. Sounds simple, right? Perhaps so, but it isn’t at all!! Trying to accomplish this in one morning for about 265 students between the ages of 5 and 21 is…well, chaotic to say the least! That’s not mentioning going over all the school rules and other important information with the students.
Monday morning I had butterflies in my stomach. Even though I wasn’t going to be teaching, I knew that I was going to be the class teacher for grade 9, so I had to give them their school supplies, take their attendance in their classroom, and make sure they all got back to the chapel for the height, weight, picture taking process.
The way they work things here is whatever teacher teaches the first class period of the day will be that class’ “Class Teacher.” This is the one who takes class attendance each morning, organizes any class outings/activities, etc.
So, yes, I was a little nervous--afraid of making a mistake and fearing what the students would think of me mostly. T’was silly of me, but I am slowly overcoming it by God’s grace.
I wasn’t just nervous though. I was excited too. You see, I knew most of the students in my classes to some degree, and I loved each one very much. These kids are so funny and special! I was greatly looking forward to being with them every day.
The chapel bell rang at 7:50, and we all hustled off to find our places on the wooden floor. When Thara Joko (Mr. Steck--this is the Karen term for ‘principal’) had finished his very short worship talk, he went over all the school rules. After this, he called all the teachers up front to introduce them and explain what classes they would be teaching. My heart was beating hard as I walked up there to stand in front of nearly 265 students, all with their eyes fixed in that direction. I awkwardly stood there, trying to not look too awkward, as Thara Joko introduced each of the teachers. When he got to me, I couldn’t help smiling, as I was just so happy to be teaching the grades I had.
“And this is Tharamu Haley. She will be teaching English to grades 6, 9, and 10.” I happened to look at the boys’ side while he was speaking, and I saw two of my 6th grader boys, who I had taught last year in grade 5, trying not to smile too big. I smiled even more, but I was amazed too. They were happy I would be their teacher again? But why? I thought I had failed miserably as a teacher… I didn’t see what there was to be happy about. Oh, how my heart sang though! God was showing me once again… I am loved. I am useful. I am appreciated. Not just by students, but most importantly by God. He took my feeble, and what I thought were failing, attempts to teach and made some good come from it all. This gave me more courage and joy than anything else! Praise God!!
After all this was finished, the classes were dismissed with their class teachers to go to their classrooms. As we walked to the grade 9 classroom, several of my 9th and 10th grade girls talked with me a little. “Good morning, my class teacher!” “Teacher Haley--my class teacher!” “Good morning, Teacher! How are you?” I couldn’t have been happier.
Once in the classroom, I called out their names and marked the names on my paper as present or absent. This being finished, I asked two energetic boys to go and get the school supplies for all the students. While we waited, they all chattered away in Karen with me listening and trying to pick up a word or two here and there.
School supplies being received, we all headed out the door, either to the dorm to “quickly” deposit said supplies before going to the chapel or straight to the chapel. On my way back, I heard, “Teacher Very Tall.” Now, there is only student who calls me that and also only one student with a voice like that, so I knew who it was before I turned around. As Saw Eh Soe came up alongside me, he asked something about whether or not we could continue violin lessons that week. Then he asked, “Teacher, this year you will be grade 9 class teacher?” I replied with a smile and a “yes.” His response? “Oh…” I couldn’t quite tell what that meant, but it sounded of at least a little pleasure. :)
Back at the chapel, I was pulled into helping with measuring the students. How it worked at first was like this: students sat around on the floor until Sharon or Hannah called their name to get their picture taken. Then they moved over to me to have their height taken, then to Thara Joko to get their weight taken. Not much later we asked Thara Lar Bweh to do the weight, with Thara Joko writing down the height as I told him what it was. Then Hannah and Thara Joko swapped places because it was easier for Hannah to understand and find the names of the students as they came through.
We wrote down the last height and weight around 12:00 p.m. That was one set of stressful 4 hours that we were thankful were over with! We collapsed onto the floor for a bit, and then departed to rest before lunch at 12:30.
Tuesday morning I had butterflies in my stomach again. But I was too excited to care. Oh, how different this time of beginning teaching was compared with last time! Last school year, I walked to class my first day full of fear, nervousness, stress, and doubts. This year I walked to class my first day full of a little nervousness, but mostly unspeakable joy at the opportunity to teach such amazing students and at the mercy and grace of God! He has taken a shy, fearful, doubting, weak young girl and given her courage, confidence, hope, joy, and peace! I cannot praise Him enough!!
That first day in class could not have been better, praise the Lord! The students were spunky and fun, and overall it was a wonderful experience. I loved their reaction when I told them my “rule” and the punishment if it is disobeyed! The rule is simple, but not easy for Karen to follow: you may not speak in Karen in class. The punishment? Forty squats for the first offense in one day, eighty for the next offense, etc. It adds up the more times you disobey. When I told them “40 squats” they all asked with some surprise, “40 squats?!” When I assured them that is what I had said I got many an, “Oh!” Saw Ku Hsee in grade 10 informed me, “Forty squats? Teacher, we will die!” Oh, you won’t die. You just won’t speak Karen in class, right? One can only hope… hehe
Monday, June 15, was the first day I really enforced my “rule.” I told my students that last week I was giving them a break to get used to the rule, but this week I would be serious about obeying it. I was reminding them all the time last week about not talking in Karen. Monday before we began class in each classroom, I told them again that this week I am going to be serious with my rule. The result? Three boys in one class and one boy in another are a little healthier than their classmates due to exercise of their legs. Oh dear… Those precious boys! I asked each one if they would talk in Karen tomorrow in class. All except one replied they would not. That one other boy said, “Maybe.” I told him if he did, that means that he wants more squats. Lol
God has given me special memories all week. Like the day that a sweet 10th grade girl carried my bag to class for me. Or the time that Saw Eh Soe kept trying to take two of everything when I told him to only take one. Or the time the row of boys just couldn’t start reading from the board all at the same time and had to start over who know how many times. Or the time that Saw Eh Shee drew a heart around the phonics word on the board instead of circling it. Or the time Htee Nay Htoo walked into class and said, “Teacher, this evening… Uh, last night! I dream you teach grade 10 new song.” (Was that a hint? Lol) Or the time Has Khu Htoo wrote for a sentence, “Tun That Win’s wife alone.” Or when Saw Ku Hsee wrote for a sentence, “If we cut our hair like Thai students our teacher admire very much.” (And also wrote his name as “JK2” on his paper, informing me that was his new name.) Or when Dee Aung Shwe wrote, “I don’t adopt anyone because I don’t have money.” Or when Eh Kaw Ku wrote, “Me fat man abdomen is very big.” Or when Saw Eh Shee wrote, “I am adult so I will help my teacher to work.” All little things that help so much to brighten my day even more… :)
Let me tell you something in case you didn’t know it already… I am not naturally a teacher. I have never been what I considered to be good “teacher material.” I have always been shy, awkward, and not nearly as friendly as I wanted to be. But I have always loved very deeply, even though I’ve had a difficult time accurately expressing my love.
So, it is all a miracle. A miracle that I am teaching. A miracle that I’m not afraid anymore. A miracle that I am excited to teach. A miracle that I have courage, peace, and joy. A miracle that my students learn anything. A miracle that they love me. A miracle that I am doing any good at all.
No one can say it is me…because none of it is. It is only God doing all this through me. I have so much to learn yet…but I will not give up because I know that God still loves me and will help me every step of the way. He has shown me this time and time again. Over and over I have seen evidence that there really is a God in Heaven. There really is a Love that will not let go. There really is a Power stronger than anything that has existed or ever will exist. GOD IS LOVE. This is the message that rings out clearly throughout all eternal ages and has found a place in this tiny human here. And it has turned a curse into a blessing. I am a miracle. Praise the Lord forever and ever!!