The topics for the articles mainly center on teaching abroad and it’s got me thinking about a smalltalk hurdle I’m constantly running into. Aside from “Why Thailand” the most frequently asked question I get is “What do you teach?”
I normally respond with “love”. People have a real aversion to this, which I will admit probably has as much to do with my demeanor as with the response, but let’s address the response for starters.
If you are an American living abroad and someone asks you this question, there are only two acceptable answers. You are either an English Teacher or you are a Missionary. So the two “correct” answers are english or the bible.
I, essentially teach neither of these things. And because I am painfully stubborn (but more importantly because I believe in the value of what I do teach) I will not say that I do because it’s limiting and unnecessary. These two subjects are the same as love to a child in my program.
People want to be assured that children are understanding words when I want to ensure that they are understanding loving actions. Actions that they can easily and immediately act on without translation of language and without any forced or imagined conversion to Christianity as a prerequisite.
I feel that we as westerners want to make this more complicated than it is for one reason…..because most of us are pretty damn lucky. No one has to “teach” us love because we’ve been shown it our whole lives. (Thanks Mark and Deb:-))
You know what’s weird though (or not weird at all)….if the kids ask what we are doing today and I say “love, love, love”. They say “YAYYYYY” and run upstairs to bring me this obnoxiously large stuffed heart.
Just last Monday Pair said, “Teacha, remember smell chocolate?” and we both started laughing. She is right and I completely forgot. This stuffed heart we got for the Valentines Day photo booth had a “special extra special great bonus” where it smelled like chocolate.
It smelled awful and we were laughing and throwing it each-other, then of course taking it way to far and tackling the boys to the ground to make them smell it. The smell faded and we still use it daily but the bigger picture is not lost on me.
The bigger picture is that Pair and I have memories together and they are important ones.
I remember the first day I met Pair in her 4th grade classroom. I remember she braided my hair so tight I felt a pulsing in my temples for three days. I remember how proud she was of that braid because it looked exactly like Elsa.
I remember the day it was OFFICIAL that I was unwelcome at her school because it was her 11th birthday and I brought noisemakers.
I remember when her best friend Ar-Muay moved away and how we both cried because no one would tell us where she went.
I remember her first crush and how she was so heartbroken over him on her 12th birthday that she didn’t said she didn’t even want the pizza she’d been begging me for for months. And I remember the biggest hug and the biggest smile when her crush and I showed up with Pizza after school anyway.
Sure, the majority of our time together has been spent in the classroom learning English but she doesn’t come for vocabulary and it’s not what comes first. We can’t learn until after love and hugs and some days require more love than others. Those are the days we both remember. Those are the days we laugh about. Those are the days she points to over and over again in the photo album.
So what do I teach? I’m sticking with my answer. Does that mean awkward silences in my future. Sure….but not from the kiddos.
Pair and Laila are in 6th grade now. We’re hoping that they’ll follow in Bung and Jang’s footsteps and go to school in town next year. If you’d like to sponsor their tutoring or make a donation for Laila’s birthday next week (she wants 29 donuts for her class) use the donorbox link here or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Love, love, love from Munchkinland,