Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not Reading, Still Learning

The temperature is 91, the heat index is 105, the sun is beating down, and I am spending the last afternoon before school starts in what is turning out to be the best way I’ve ever spent it--a way I will volunteer to spend it every year after this.

Last Monday, the first day of teacher meetings, the high school principal asked for volunteers to help with student orientation on Wednesday, the day before school was to start. Hands shot up for helping all grade levels with textbooks and with emergency drills. The space for volunteers to oversee student council led games on the playground stayed oddly blank. 

“I’ll do anything with 10th grade--I’ll help with the games,” I said. I was puzzled by the hearty thanks I received. Until Wednesday afternoon as I head outside for the games and realize that the other responsibilities are all in the air conditioned classroom building.

Now I’m standing in the shade of the cafeteria veranda nursing my bottle of water, squinting through my sunglasses. Students are playing water games--some chasing each other with paper cups full of water, others standing on the sidelines catching up with friends and meeting new students. 

It dawns on me that this is the perfect opportunity to review the student names I’ve been studying from last year’s yearbook pictures. When I start getting stuck, I ask a student standing nearby for help. 

I learn so much. I learn that Namjung goes by NJ, and I learn how to tell the twins apart. I move over to the swings and strike up a conversation with 3 girls there. I learn that Cielo (pronounced chee-EL-oh) is from the Philippines, and her name means “heaven.” 

Best of all, I have no first-day-of-school nightmares that night, and no butterflies the next morning. I’m looking forward to this school year--to getting to know these students more and to helping them engage with literature from around the world, develop their communication skills, and do the verse posted in my classroom: “Love the Lord your God with all your...mind” (Luke 10:27).

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