Every day 38 students, in two groups of 19, come into my classroom. (My very small classroom.) They come in excited and chatty. They come in with a lot of questions and stories and kisses and comments. They come in and they sit down and we get started. Every once in a while, while the kids are working independently, I’ll look around at my classroom.
In my classroom there are students who love school. They raise their hands often and they answer and ask questions. They tell stories related (and unrelated) to what we are learning. They love worksheets. They finish quickly. They enjoy their days in my classroom. In my classroom there are also students who aren’t so crazy about school. They like their friends. They like running around outside. They like drawing. But sitting still and raising their hands and listening to a teacher teach in their second language isn’t their thing. And you know what? That’s totally okay, too. Because life is full of things that aren’t our thing that we have to do anyway and the lesson of responsibility is one of the most important I can teach in my classroom (third to love and respect).
In my classroom there are students of all shades and colors. There are really tall students and teeny tiny students. There are boys and girls, siblings and cousins. In my classroom there is a student who just had to spend his first Christmas without his mom. He and another of my students, who proudly says he has two moms and a mountain of brothers, live in a place called Josiah’s House, where they relearn the hard and beautiful lesson of what it means to be a part of a family.
In my classroom there is a student who lives in a teeny tiny house with her mom, her sister, and their new puppy. A couple of years ago she watched her mom get baptized. For the past couple of years she has watched her mom learn to read, and she has learned right along with her. Her mom works for a place called Mercy Jewelry, where women learn of their great worth and the great love the God Who Sees has for them. (They also make gorgeous jewelry.)
In my classroom there is a student with twisty braids in her hair. Over Christmas break I rode to a nearby city to watch her sing in her little church’s Christmas program and it was so precious. She has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. She lives in a place called Lifehouse, which is a really just the home of a family who saw a need and met it. She lives with other girls who needed a safe place to live and a safe family to be loved by. She has a mountain of sisters.
In my classroom there is a student who loves to figure things out. He asks a lot of curious questions. He is a lot like his dad in that way. His parents moved to this country just after they got married not too many years ago with the sole goal of loving on some Dominicans. They work long hard hours – he doing physical labor on the ministry’s property and she doing the hard work of mothering and tutoring and substitute teaching, both doing the essential work of discipling and relationship building. Their home is a great, comfortable, welcoming place to be.
In my classroom there is a student who, as a first grader, is living in his third country. He and his family went to language school in Costa Rica so that they could hit the ground running here in the DR. Every week they hang out with people in a nearby sugarcane village, or batey.
In my classroom there are two sister students. One is a helper and one is a talker. They both light up the classroom with their personalities – both behind the scenes and in the spotlight. They might have as many teenage friends as they do first grade friends because their parents have taken on the crazy work of loving teenagers by opening their home and hosting brownie nights. Theirs is a generous and fun family. They are living and learning every day in their second language.
In my classroom there is a student who has a story for everything. She will raise her hand and when I call on her she inevitably starts with, “One time…” When she started at the school a couple of years ago she and I were the only Americans in the Preschool program – a program almost 100 people strong. She must get her chattiness from her dad, who is a pastor, although I suspect those relationship skills come from her mom as well, who loves on women with Lily House.
Every day I look around my classroom and I see representations of all the ways God is working in this city and in this country. I see representations of the diversity of the body of Christ. Dark skin, light skin, big bellies, flat bellies, artists, athletes, servants, mathematicians, comedians, writers, readers, builders, dreamers…
In my classroom are these little people with all of their personalities and I wouldn’t have it any other way.