When I graduated from High School, everyone said I should go to college and become a music teacher. But when you’re 18 and wanting to claim your independence you don’t want to do what everybody else says that you should do. I graduated from Illinois State University with a degree as a Certified Recreational Therapy Specialist.
I remember when I first started learning about recreational therapy. I said “I can do this, but I won’t work with people with disabilities,” but the rest sounded great. Well, when I was in college I fell in love with working with people that are different from me. I loved seeing the way that God creates people and really seeing what was going on and not just what everyone else was seeing. That degree started my love for teaching and my passion for learning how to love people.
I thought hard of going back for my teaching degree several times, but just never felt complete peace about it. But I love teaching. I am glad of all the neat opportunities I have had over the years to teach kids and to learn from so many other people. In my heart I have a teacher’s heart and love seeing kids learn new things in their own individual ways.
Luke also has a wonderful teacher’s heart so it was a very easy fit for us to start working in preschools and with children here in Malawi. In our first year here we were able to observe so many preschool classes and hear about so many needs. One of the needs is the training of preschool teachers. In some areas there are no preschool teachers, so the kids start school at Standard 1, very similar to the American Grade 1. This is so hard for the children when they haven’t been exposed to any teaching and then start with over 100 kids in their class. To graduate from High School they need to be fluent in English so it is so important for them to start learning it early.
We have been going to a wonderful preschool once a week for about a year now. This is helping us to learn new songs, practice our Chichewa, and learn new teaching techniques. But it also gives us an opportunity to test out some American ideas and see if they work in Malawi. So right now I am in the process of creating a Chichewa preschool curriculum. A curriculum in Chichewa but that teaches the children the English alphabet and some English words. Our hope is then to be able to train many preschool teachers so kids can continue to learn at early ages and they can continue to excel in their academic growth.
Teaching is one of our pure joys every week. The preschool, Chankungu, that we teach has around 150 kids in it with only two teachers, the children range from 2 to 5 years old. There are some days when we are there and one teacher is gone so we teach about 60 to 70 kids by ourselves. It is very interesting with our limited Chichewa, but it works, and we are learning Chichewa faster because of it.
The preschools we work with do not have very many supplies. They have a one chalkboard and chalk and some pencils and paper. And even with these supplies there isn’t enough to go around. Luke was able to make chalkboards for about 90 of the kids. This has been so exciting for them, now all of the children have been able to practice their writing and alphabet skills. Luke does chalkboard writing with them every single week. He loves working on the shapes and letters with them. The older class is really been able to excel on these skills.
“Lembani lembo E”
(Write the letter E)
Every week we have been breaking them up into smaller groups so that way we can help teach them more hands on skills. Something I can’t put into words is seeing a child play with play-dough or color with crayons for the first time. I love this time because we can do some real hand on skills with them and continue to work on simple preschool skills, on a weekly basis. Mark’s school is on break but most governmental schools are in session until the end of July, so Mark has been going with us and loves helping the kids.
We are so thankful for all of you that donated all the wonderful school supplies. We received over 200lbs of pencils, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, crayons, and so much more. There have been so many more things I have been able to do and share with others with all the additional supplies. Because of all the wonderful donations, in September when school starts up again, we are going to be able to give school supplies to some that have never had them before. Please be praying with us in this adventure we are on and that God will continue to guide our paths.
Weekly I am able to teach a Sunday school class for 2-5 year olds. We are also helping develop a curriculum for the Anglican Church to teach in Sunday schools. I have taught preschool and Sunday school classes for years, but developing curriculum is a new concept to me. God has definitely taken me on many journeys, sometimes I feel privileged to have had so many different careers. But he continues to teach me to follow him and when he asks you to do something, he will help you to complete it.
Some days are hard and I am lonely and wonder if we can do this. But then when a little boy yells, “House!” at a picture of a house. Or you hear the kids talk about how God is our friend, our comforter, and our provider. I remember why God calls us here. My next post is going to be on significance and serving God where you are. I pray that you all are continuing on your own journeys that the Lord is taking you on and that you know that he is going to be there with you every step of the way.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9