The First Day of Class – Nairobi, Kenya

Woke up early and ate oatmeal which I made in my room (remember, I sleep in the kitchen area). They have an announcement and prayer time every morning that I guess I am supposed to attend, altho no really told me. They introduced me to everyone and I had to say a few words about myself. I realized that I don`t know the proper order in which Catholics cross themselves. Is it forehead, left shoulder, then right then…anyway, I also don`t know the words they recite so I just kind of stood there looking around. After the prayer, I went back to my room to get ready for the class.

I arrived to my classroom and tried to get the 12 curious faces into their little chairs. I had no idea what to do with these kids. They were good and sat still for about 10 seconds. Then they obviously started testing me. It didn’t help that I didn’t know any of their names. I thought about name tags but they wouldn’t tell me when I asked. When they did speak, they mumbled and I couldn’t understand if they were even talking in English or Swahili. They didn’t listen at all.

Then they proceeded to tear the place apart. Crayons, legos, playdough, miniature cars, books, not to mention the odd chair, flying through the air. I did manage to get all twelve the 2 foot hurricanes to sit and draw for a while. And they sang the ABCs (we only got as far as P in unison) but that was the end of it. So I just resigned myself to making sure that I didn`t lose any of them. They kept running out of the classroom and there were times that I was missing 3 with no clue where or who they were.

Now I realize why they pray every morning…Finally 1030 came and it was breaktime. I crumpled into a chair and drank the tea which was a sweet creamy concoction with a slight oil slick on the surface. I glanced around at the other adults chatting away mostly in Swahili then stared sullenly into my tea. I somehow hoped that if I looked hard enough, it would give me the answer of how I would handle these kids.

Teacher Margaret noticed me looking defeated and asked how it went. I looked at the ground a bit humiliated and told her the truth. She laughed knowingly and told me not to worry. She would come tell them to listen to me and help me settle them down a bit. But an unexpected visit from some television show came along to do a magic show and took all the kids for the whole rest of the morning. I sat in the empty classroom feeling a little beaten. I began picking up the legos and pencils strewn from here to who knows where and could only think of one thing: I had better come up with a plan and fast.

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