This is my first post since arriving in Moldova 4 months ago. I don’t care to backtrack but I will talk about today.
Currently, ONE aspect of my assignment as a Health Education in Schools and Communities Volunteer is to work as a Health Teacher with a Moldovan partner. I teach 5th, 6th and 8th grade and I have an after school club.
In some of my classes, there are kids that cannot read or write very well. However, in my 5th B class, there is a student that reads very poorly and yet BEGS to be called on. Typically, the students that can’t read NEVER volunteer, but this boy is the exception. When I called on him, I actually forgot about his limited abilities, but the outburst in laughter from the other children every time he stumbled over a word or mispronounced something served as a sharp reminder. Needless to say…I was outraged.
Who did these little kids think they were, LAUGHING at a student for daring to TRY?! Not wanting any of them to break his confidence or will to be brave, I raised my voice for the first time this year!
“Clasa 5B! Nu este politicos să vorbească sau ride cînd o alta elevi citească. Fiți atenți și liniștiți ACUM!” My Romanian is understandable, but I still make many mistakes. I wanted them to pay attention and stop laughing because it was impolite to do so when another student is reading. Their silent voices and nervous faces told me loud and clear…they got the message.
No more than 7 minutes later, the children are working in groups, but I notice that Tatianna, the girl who sits alone…in the back of the class…was sitting in her chair with tears in her eyes. While my partner seems to be oblivious to this, I quickly walk over to her and ask what is wrong. Tatianna’s glassy, brown eyes looked up at me with reservation. So I asked again. “What’s the problem Tatianna?” In a very small, voice she says to me, “Doina told me to sit down.”
Some of you may not get this…but Tatianna is the kind of child that is rejected by all of the others. No one talks to her. No one sits by her. No one likes her. And from what I can tell from the layer of dirt that stains her skin…no one at her home really tends to her. So when she says, “Doina told me to sit down” during a group activity I know something went wrong. Never in my life have I ever felt such a sense of responsibility for someone, other than my own brother and sister. It hit me, that if I don’t stand up for Tatianna in this classroom…no one else is going to. I can’t control what happens when she leaves, but here…in MY class, she will NOT be ignored.
To make a long story short, I spoke with Doina privately. Doina simply told me, “she didn’t understand. So I told her to sit down. She’s not as smart as the rest of us.” And then…I was overcome with emotion again. Doina is not the problem. Doina…like ALL of us in this world… is a product of her environment. She actually thinks, she did Tatianna a favor. So I explained that ‘she doesn’t get to decide who is smart and who isn’t, and from now on, if Tatianna doesn’t understand, HELP her understand or ask me to explain it better, but NEVER tell her to “sit down” again’. Doina was ashamed and nodded her head in agreement. I smiled at her and told her I wasn’t angry. And I’m not.
I didn’t get it before today. There was no emotional connection before today. Anyone who knows me, knows that while I am a thinker, my best work comes from my emotional attachments.
To be honest…I’m not really a teacher. I HATE teaching. I’d rather NOT be lesson planning and standing in front of a classroom everyday.
But…thanks to the little girl that sits alone, in the back of the class…I’m prepared to be as brave as the boy that stood up to read today, knowing that he couldn’t. I’m prepared to do all that I can, in anyway that I can to help her, to help them, and to help myself, for as long as I’m here.
After all, Life Called…and I answered “Present”.