God has a Funny Sense of Humor
Well, I now have a new role at the Hogar: tutor/online class facilitator. That's right. Ever since the beginning of the month, the new school year has started here in Bolivia. And like many students have experienced around the globe this past year, school looks a little different this year. For the time being, classes are being held online online.
Now this brings along some unique challenges that probably will sound familiar to anyone who has experienced online school in the past year. (This includes parents, teachers, and students.) First of all, there are just shy of 40 girls here at the Hogar. And there are 7 computers available (10 if you include the laptops of the volunteers which have seen a lot of use in the past few weeks). That means there is a lot of sharing of computers for students in the same class. Also, it is hard to find a quite location so that the girls can attend class without interruption, and I feel bad for the sisters who have to sift through endless WhatsApp messages to keep track of which girls have what classes at what times and what homework is due when.
Another challenge is the WiFi connection here. Sure, we have all experienced some lag in a video call or days when the internet just isn't functioning well, but those days are far more common here in Bolivia. I have been sitting in on a couple of classes with the students where they can't see what the teacher is demonstrating or in which the call is dropped and they need to reconnect. Meanwhile the teacher is still continuing on with the lesson.
Probably the biggest challenge is just how far behind a lot of the girls are in school. From my discussions with my site partner, Mary, it sounds like the school year typically starts in February here. If that is the case, they had school for about a month before Covid struck. And to make things worse, it sounds like all students progressed to the next level to start this year. (Bear in mind, it sounds like there was no online school last year.) All that is to say, we have multiple students who are lacking the skills they need to be successful at their current level. Don't get me wrong, I do believe the teachers are trying to do some review work to catch students up, but it just isn't enough. We have one first grader who has never attended school before and can't identify letters or numbers, three second graders who can't read, two third graders who can hardly sound out words (let alone comprehend them), a fourth grade who can't read well and acts out as a coping mechanism, and a fifth grader that is a very slow reader and can hardly comprehend what she reads. That doesn't even cover the math skills which are sorely lacking. Many of the younger students can't say the names of numbers over 20 and students from 1st grade to 6th grade commonly use their fingers to perform basic math facts.
And this is where the title of this blog comes into play. As I was applying to and preparing for mission, I had decided that I didn't think I would return to teaching. It is a lot of hard work, and I just wasn't fully passionate about it. I was excited to have a role with youth outside of the pressure of teaching. And yet, here I am, in a new country, stepping into a similar role to a teacher without being well versed in the language, and dealing with way more difficulties than in my own classroom. I had my plans, and God had his.
But I will say this: I am so grateful for my time in the classroom. Looking back, I realize God was preparing me for my time here in Bolivia. If I hadn't taught, I would be way more overwhelmed by my responsibilities right now. By teaching through a very difficult year, I now have insights that will better help me with some of the struggles we are facing. Don't get me wrong, I feel very inadequate to fulfill all the needs of the girls, but I am more confident that working together with
my fellow volunteers, we can be a great help to these girls. We might not solve all of the problems, but we can do something. And that is all that is needed right now.