I’m Only Going to Break Your Heart

17 Feb

I have 4 days left with my learners and am at a loss when trying to follow Jan & Paula’s directions about enjoying every second we have with the kids.  It’s nearly impossible not to dwell on the inevitable– that in one short week, we’ll leave these kids forever.  The reality is we’ll almost certainly never see them again.

This week I learned that engagement is key to reducing behavior issues.  Unfortunately, you can have the most engaging activity in the world planned, but if your learners can’t even get past directions, behaviors will continue.  I had lots of success with my home room during my STI introduction.  We passed wrapped and unwrapped candies around and those who had the unwrapped candies “caught” an STI.  Learners were asking questions, answering respectively– we even pulled out a condom because the questions were so good and I was dying to answer them to the best of my ability.  In sharp contrast, however, 7B was not so successful.  Although I clearly said “Do not put these candies in your mouth,” three of the six candies (wrapped AND unwrapped, by the way), ended up covered in spit.  The next thing I knew, everyone was yelling and blaming their neighbor for breaking the rules.  It was chaos.

This part of the day was not so fun.  I had to make them put their heads on their desks and give them the “we need to be thinking about the choices we’re making” speech.  I really tired to be firm but still keep it non-authoritarian.  They brainstormed with their table groups what we could do as a class to improve behavior, which seemed to be a postive way to go since we didn’t have time for the activity after all the hulabalo.  However, 7B came back for art during 8th period and the choas ensued again.

I turned to write something on the board for a second and a girl marched over and karate-kicked a boy in the chest.  While he was bent over wheezing, two boys in the back started hitting each other, fighting over the tape.  Of course, through all the yelling, it was hard to figure out what was happening, but I separated all fighting parties quickly.  After things had calmed down, I realized I had forgotten to take a class picture with them (I’m trying to take all the class pictures this week so that I can have them ready by Monday).  Dismissing by table group, I hoped that this would not be pandemonium.

Well, of course it was.  Young teacher’s mistake, certainly.  After the third table group, punches were flying, shouts were echoing, and I was freezing.  Freezing as in I became immobile.  I have this tendency to just shut down when there’s so much going on, especially yelling.  It was 8th period, I was cranky, people were fighting, and I had no apparent say.  I just stood there, for minutes it seemed, while children crowded me shouting, “MISS! MISS! MISS! Miss, he’s pushing me! Miss, where’s my sweets? Miss, where’s the book you promised me?”

I just walked out.

Not my best moment.  It’s not like I went far, I just stood with my back against the wall as I had another mini-meltdown.  You know, the one I swore not two weeks ago I’d ever have again.  I wasn’t even sure why I was crying or upset.  I just knew that I wanted more for them that to be fighting.  I wanted them to love each other enough to see that it was obviously not the way to behave– like that was fair of me at all.  Instantly, my home room group (who were outside playing since their teacher was absent), flew to my side.  I was literally outside for 30 seconds before they saw I was visibly upset.  I told them I was fine, of course, that sometimes we all just needed to take a break and breathe and it was all fine.  Rino asked me angrily if the learners were being mean to me.  Without my answer, he flew into the classroom and started yelling more– as if that was what I had wanted.  But I didn’t stop him.  The girls were all petting my hair telling me not to cry.  Geeze, it wasn’t like I was sobbing.  I was just glossy-eyed and tearful, but they looked so worried.  I kept repeating that I wasn’t mad, that really I was just going to miss them all a lot.  Rino came back out and told me they were taking care of it.

A few minutes later, Frankly, one of my favorite kids and a prefect, came outside and told me they were so sorry and to please come inside.  It had been a few minutes, so it was definitely time to rejoin my children and take leadership once more.  When I came inside, they were all standing perfectly against the blackboard, ready for their photo.  At once, they all burst into “I’m sorry”‘s and “We never want you to cry”s.  I felt so goofy.  I started laughing harder than I have in a while, mostly because I could tell they were so sincere.  After we took photos, they stood in a line for hugs and apologies.  I kept repeating that it was ok, that I was just going to miss them a lot, but they still hugged and said sorry a million times.

It may have been another moment of weakness, but it was for the best this time around.  I think they finally saw me as a human being, not just a teacher there to lecture and get mad.  One of the girls approached me after class and gave me an apology note.  She said, “It’s a hard job, miss.”  Then she patted me on the shoulder and gave me a kiss before leaving.

I almost want to cry again thinking about it all.  It’s overwhelming to feel so much love and sadness and frustration at once, it makes you ache inside, but I would rather ache than be without the feelings entirely.  Thursday, our last day, is going to be a mess.  I might as well not even wear make-up.

The elusive 7B photograph

7A, my home room & (secret) favorites.  It’s personal against the other classes, but I spent so much time the first and second week getting to know these kids.  They’re my advisory group.

Some of my 7A boys who have stolen my heart posing with some school supplies my Tia Venus, Mama Deb & Jessie donated.






The orphanage is yet another part of the Namibia trip that will break my heart…I’ll regail you in photos.

My beloved Gustav…the biter/licker/sucker child

This is how Gustav drew me today. Interesting.

Mis hombresitos


9 days left in Namibialand….




4 Responses to “I’m Only Going to Break Your Heart”

  1. Mama Deb February 18, 2011 at 3:27 am #

    Beautiful story – made me cry. Love you. Mama Deb

  2. Erika February 18, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    I cried. So touching. Love you! And I know this may be a VERY VERY selfish thing to say, but I really really want you home and cannot wait for you to get here.

  3. keith gerling February 19, 2011 at 3:52 am #

    Unreal and outstanding experience you put into words….Really cool, you put a nice little piece of work together here…good job.

  4. Cristina February 19, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Jill, do not loose hope, we may come back to visit later, so do not think you won’t see your kids again. Have fun at the beach. Love, Mom

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