Taking Over the Reins, A Photo Reflection by Michelle Stackmann

I see rows of desks and chairs, all neatly aligned in parallel lines. I see bookbags lying on the floor, notebooks resting on the desks, and pens ready to start copying whatever is written on the blackboard. I see a towering blackboard on the front of the room, with some traces of chalk on it, looking down upon the children sitting on the chairs. I see a teacher in front of the classroom, filling the room with his/her powerful voice. What would happen to this portrait of a classroom if we let the children take over the reins of their own lesson?

 

Yesterday, we (the 2014 DukeEngage group) had the opportunity to lead a Science lesson at Arusha School. We divided the 50 kids of 4B in eight groups. I was in charge of leading seven boys. We brainstormed on the topic of transportation and took a picture that represented it. I saw how letting the kids take charge of their own lesson led to compelling results.

To represent transportation, my group of kids and I went outside to the school field to look for something we could photograph. Since we could not easily find a car or truck we could use for our picture, I suggested the boys that we could act it out. Readily, Collin assumed the role of the driver by reaching for a glove he had tucked in his pocket and wearing it on his right hand. The other boys, in the midst of laughter and remarks, lined up and gave each other piggyback rides to resemble cows being transported in a truck.

 

This activity — which relied on the participatory method — unleashed creativity, promoted teamwork, and encouraged the practicing of motor skills. The kids portrayed cow transport by giving each other piggyback rides and lining up, creating an imaginary truck transporting cows. They assumed roles within the group: a driver led the line while the others lined up. They engaged the mind and body by going outside and acting out a concept.

We printed the picture and proceeded to paste it in the center of a piece of paper. As a group, the kids discussed the importance of transportation in Tanzania based on what they already knew. They wrote down on the paper their thoughts.

 

This process created an artistic outlet for the kids, let personal talents flourish, and encouraged divergent thinking. Kelvin, a very talented artist in the group, had the chance to draw a car and motorcycle in the poster they made. He was able to use his artistic skills in Science class! The boys also were given the chance to think about concepts they already knew without me lecturing them or revealing to them the answers.

 

The LTP method was very successful in this scenario because it used the kids’ energy in a positive way: letting them play around outside led to amazing results. It also let the kids use multiple senses — seeing, hearing, and doing — to understand a topic instead of just listening to a lecture. Although we might have not covered all the planned material for the lesson, LTP was used not to replace the lecture but to supplement and reinforce topics by encouraging divergent thinking and participation.

 

Some teachers have mentioned that LTP is not compatible with standardized tests, which require memorization and right/wrong answers. In this activity we might have not encouraged rote learning, but we did boost divergent thinking, creativity, and thinking outside the box. These are all skills necessary to succeed in life and in real-world situations, where problems have to be faced with innovation and resourcefulness.

 

In my portrait of a classroom, I do not see students sitting down, staring at the blackboard, and copying down words in their notebooks. I look out the window and see them acting, working in teams, learning from each other. Ironically, my portrait of a classroom is not even inside a room. Kids took over the reigns of their own lesson, and they were great drivers.

C is for Creativity, L is for Learning, a photo reflection by Betsy Mansfield

As I look back through all the photos that have been taken in the different workshops over the past two months I am struck by how they all share one thing in common:, creativity. Creativity and its promotion are the main goals of LTP, engaging students in an alternative learning method that allows them to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems. The students have been consistently resourceful, expressive, and inventive with their work, all the while illustrating exactly what they want to.
Looking at these photos is what brings a smile to my face and a sense of pride for all of the work our group has done over the past two months. While our work may not be quantifiable, I feel that we have made an impact on the students and built great connections within the community. LTP is all about awareness and understanding; it is meant to be partnered with the existing teaching practices in the classroom to add another dimension to learning. I feel that we as a team worked hard to mix LTP into the curriculum, and it inspired many students and teachers. Yet the teachers and students are not the only ones who have learned something through this experience, our team has learned so much as well.

 

The picture I have chosen was from our work at Arusha Day Secondary School our last week here. We worked with three streams of Form I students, each with 60 students in the stream. The focus of the day was on pre-colonial Tanzania and the industries, agriculture, and handicrafts of that time. We had read over the pages of the book that covered the topic but still didn’t know a huge amount about the subject. Because of this and the students’ knowledge on the subject we were able to learn right along with them and gain more information about the history of Tanzania and its industries. With the students we were able to walk to a Maasai curios market just down the road from the school and take pictures there as well as around the grounds of the school. The photo I have chosen is from my last group of the day, and our topic was “handicrafts.” When I asked them what some examples of handicrafts were they came up with a variety of answers. We were then faced with the problem of illustrating some of those examples.

 

Immediately two students walked off into the bushes and pulled down two or three leaves and passed them around to everyone in the group. When I asked what they were making the told me they were going to weave a mat from leaves. The students quickly tore the leaves into strips and wove them in to a mini version of the dried leaf mats I have seen throughout my time here. I was amazed by their speed and innovation in creating something so recognizable and well known. The students then taught me what the mats were used for today and back in pre-colonial times. I think that this is representative of our time here in Tanzania. We learn as much from the students, if not more, as they learn from us. Each week has been a new and different learning environment, and I value each and every moment of creativity and joy that we experienced.

a photo reflection by Emily Yang

In a corner of Arusha School there is a room. Though the sign in the picture says nursery and primary, this room is open to all students. It is plastered from wall to wall with visual aids in every subject, colorful workbooks, boxes of supplies, a TV and some DVDs. After reading about and seeing in person how stark the classrooms are in some Tanzanian schools, the Resource Room of Arusha School, so reminiscent of its classroom counterparts in the United States, was completely unexpected. No bare walls and peeling paint here, not even desks that bolted to the chairs.

 

All throughout my trip, I puzzled over why this concentrated blast of visual and artistic material exists in just one room. To be fair, there are differences among Tanzanian schools in terms of what visual materials are available. For example, instead of selecting posters to hang in each room individually, the teachers at Arusha School take their students to the aforementioned resource room for their daily dose of creativity. Although the walls were bare at Meru School and Uhuru School—both government schools, private schools like Swifts and Shalom have a selection of posters hanging in the classrooms. In addition, there are paintings of body systems or maps of the world on the exterior walls of some schools.

 

A lack of resources may explain bare walls. But in all the places we visited there were no signs of past LTP work, even though we aim to provide visual aids, in addition to providing a creative outlet with LTP activities. It may be that visual aids become unusable over time or have been taken home by the students. According to our community partner Pelle, some teachers keep the past LTP work in their offices so that it is “safe,” but if it’s locked away it’s not useful for educational purposes.

 

This leads to one of the most prominent concerns that we have talked about in our DukeEngage reflection sessions: the sustainability of LTP. After all, our DukeEngage team is not unlike the resource room of Arusha School. We only work in one classroom at a time. We provide a concentrated burst of creativity and a wealth of different approaches to learning. This may prove useful, but actively promoting the continuation of LTP through students, teachers, and administration presents some formidable obstacles, including large classrooms, looming examinations, language barriers, limited resources, and time. We have formed lasting relationships with teachers and students from a variety of schools, but if these obstacles go unaddressed, the ideas we wish to impart leave the classroom with us. We have little idea of what impact we leave on the students and teachers of Tanzania. I hope that someday, there will be no more need for a resource room, and that the posters within and LTP materials will hang on every classroom wall of Arusha School and beyond.

The Beginning of the End: Week 7 by Betsy Mansfield

We’re in our last week. That statement seems impossible to wrap my head around. It has almost been two months, and it seems both just yesterday and a lifetime ago that I was boarding the plane to fly here. Reflecting back on our experiences, the people we have met and all the things we have learned I am awed by the amazing time we’ve had here. Working alongside the teachers and students has been a gift and I feel we all have learned so much. This past week was no exception.

 

We spent the previous week at Shalom School, a primary school about a half an hour away from our apartments. The classes are fairly small, however not as small as Swifts Junior Academy where we worked two weeks ago, and the students were all so happy and receptive. We worked with a different class or stream each day so we got to experience different settings and subjects as we went along. Earlier in the trip we had the opportunity to sit in on some of the classes at Shalom and observe the teachers. This was a great experience, as we usually don’t have the chance to watch the teachers in action. It allowed us to see how the teachers and school operated and what the students experienced daily.

We started on Tuesday with Class 3s, who were learning the habitats of different animals. We split up into groups and acted out animals that lived in water habitats, land habitats and water and land habitats. We took pictures of the students acting out the animals and then cut them out and taped them to white pieces of paper. The students then drew the habitat that the animal lived in around their photo and wrote information about that animal on the back of the poster. I think this is one of my favourite activities we have done thus far. The students seemed to really enjoy acting out the animals and the final products were really cool to look at. Each student worked in pairs so they were able to collaborate and create amazing results.

 

I think my favorite of all the posters was one the Nate and Naty’s group created.They were working with animals in water habitats and the student chose octopus. The photo they took was incredible as they collaborated between four students to make the eight -armed creature. Their creativity was awesome to see and the picture turned out really fun as well.

 

LTP incorporates a lot of different learning techniques, not just through photography. We next worked with the Class 4s where we implemented Learning Through Play. Mishi and Emily led a lesson on Physical Geography and different landforms such as plateau, plains, valleys and so on. We then went outside and played a game where the students made the shape of the feature with their arms in different sized groups. It was a lot of fun to both watch and participate in. In the afternoon on Wednesday the entire school had a debate that we were able to sit in on and watch. Each week the students hold a debate or writing competition to change things up. Each class has their own topic and each stream was debating one side. I sat in on the Class 5 debate on whether Reading Books was better than watching TV. Some of the other topics included, ‘single life is better than married life, and ‘boarding school is better than day school.’ The set up was interesting to watch considering each stream had about 30-35 students in the class. It worked out really well— most of the students participated and all made interesting and well thought out points.

 

We continued our work with Class 5 and PDS. PDS stands for Personal Development and Sports. The students were learning traditional games and had been talking about teamwork. Dish and Nate led the lesson where we played numerous games that involved teamwork. These included Blob tag and the Human knot, where students had to hold hands work together to tag others or untangle themselves from a knot they created. The last part of Thursday was spent with the Class 6 streams working on adjectives. Each group wrote stories using 20 adjectives and then took a picture to illustrate a part of the story. The creativity that the students had when writing their stories was fascinating to watch the pictures turned out great.

 

We ended our week by working with one stream of Class 2 and one stream of Class 1. In Class 2 we created an animal alphabet where the students acted out the animals for each letter of the alphabet. While 5 of us worked with Class 1 playing games and working on an English lesson, Katie, Nate and I took a trip down to the River Themi with Class 3. The walk down was pretty steep so we and the other teachers had to help the 60 students climb down the slope one at a time. Students observed the plants and animals in their surroundings for science class. Overall our time at Shalom was spectacular, we learned a lot from the students and had a really good time working with each of the different classes.

 

 

We also continued with our after school programs each day after school at Arusha School. In my group we are still learning about animals through reading some of the books I brought and drawing pictures of different animals. I have really enjoyed getting to know all of my students and it is always great to see them at the end of the day. As our time is winding down we are preparing for the exhibition that is to happen this Wednesday. We were even lucky enough to be able to eat dinner at Arusha School on Thursday night. We waited until sunset to eat as it is Ramadan and Pelle, Kasim and many of the students are fasting. The food was delicious and it was so much fun to be able to stay with the students more and talk to them while they ate.

 

Our weekend was spent here in Arusha wrapping up some last minute things, and travelling around town on different errands. We spent a good part of Saturday interviewing Pelle about his life and his involvement in LTP, which was really fascinating. We were able to just sit down and let him talk, and I think we all learned so much from him and were able to hear all about his goals for LTP in Arusha and Tanzania as a whole. After the interview we spent time at Arusha School with the students who were boarders. There were no official after school lessons so we ended up playing games and listening to music all together. It was really nice to just spend more time with the students talking, dancing and laughing. Sunday was spent cooking a lunch to thank our Kiswahili teachers and to say goodbye to them. Everyone chipped in with the cooking and the meal was absolutely delicious. We were able to catch up with our teachers and reminisce about the first two weeks when we had our Kiswahili lessons. It’s hard to believe that our time here is almost over and I am eternally grateful for this experience. I have learned so much while working in the different schools and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Arusha. I know next week will be a whirlwind but I’m also so excited to go back to Duke and share all of my experiences with others. So here’s to the memories and our final week here!

 

Habari za Ngombe? News of the Cow? a photo reflection by Nathan Hsieh

When we were taking Kiswahili lessons, we began by learning greetings. “Shikamoo” for elders, “mambo” for youngsters, “salama,” “umelalaje?,” and much, much more. We learned questions to ask, statements to say, and responses to offer to all of these greetings. Every morning we would greet our teachers extensively, and exchange news of our lives. Godson, one of our Kiswahili teachers, stressed the importance of greetings in Tanzania. “Tanzanians greet even the cows,” he joked.

 

I have never greeted as frequently and as fiercely as I have for the past two months here in Tanzania. Walking around the city center, we often were greeted by strangers on the street. Every time we met someone new, each one of us exhausted our list of Kiswahili greetings in cordial conversation. Upon entering a Tanzanian class room, our arrival was always greeted with a slow, strong chorus of children’s voices:

“Good morning Teachers!”

“Good morning! How are you?”

“We are fine, and how are you too?”

 

This part of Tanzanian culture has taught me much about how to teach and serve in the local community. It places emphasis on relationships and human connection; strangers, friends, students, teachers begin every conversation with a pleasant exchange. Similarly, I have come to see that while some of our work can be quantified and measured, much of it is intangible. Apart from the projects that are completed during the lessons and workshops, we cannot see how our teaching has impacted the teachers and students. We cannot know the future of LTP in Tanzanian schools, or how it might affect Tanzanian education in the long run. However, we can trust in the relationships that we have built with the teachers, with the students, and with the schools. It has been an exchange every time we’ve entered a classroom – our experiences for theirs, their knowledge for ours. Because of the time we spent with the local community members, and because of the experiences we shared, we can attribute any lasting impact more to the human connections we made than to visual aids we helped create. Cameras, printers, and paper are transient, while inspiration and impactful interactions are sustained.

 

After being immersed in Tanzanian culture and experiencing Tanzanian community, I am seeing the importance of the unseen, and trusting in the power of the relationships we have built.

Kwaheri–reflections on saying goodbye, by Natalia Gallo, Helen Liu and Dish Lamichhane



We’ve been saying different goodbyes every week. By the end of our eight weeks here, we will only have worked at eight schools and have led four teacher workshops in five cities.

 

This is great because it means we’ve been able to reinforce the LTP methodology in places other than Arusha. Selfishly, I’ve also loved exploring different, more remote, parts Tanzania by car and because of this I’ve learned more about the culture as a whole.

 

However, this means that every single week we’ve been working with a new group of kids and saying goodbye only three or four days after meeting them.Because I go into the week knowing the schedule and the end date, saying goodbye is bearable. It’s always something that I knew was coming. Subconsciously, I probably don’t let myself get as attached as I usually would. For the kids, though, it’s different. The hardest part of every Friday when we’re about to leave after having worked an entire week somewhere is when someone inevitably asks, “Teachers, will you come tomorrow?” One of us usually answers something along the lines of, “You don’t have school tomorrow!” in an attempt to avoid the question: “What about Monday?”

 

Seeing the way their faces fall when they learn that our time teaching them has ended is one of the things I dread the most. I don’t want to make it sound like we are coming in and changing their lives through one simple workshop. Their lives probably won’t be split into two: before the Duke students and after the Duke students. However, our time with them at the very least means they take a break from seeing a teacher in front of a blackboard and can have more agency in their own education by thinking creatively through pictures and play. Through LTP, they can link their least favorite subject with a fun game that might change the way they view it. They’re given a chance to answer questions open-endedly and there is no pressure to reach a pre-determined correct response.

 

The goodbye I’m dreading the most, though, happens tomorrow when we will visit our after school students at Arusha School for the last time. Every single day that we’ve been in Arusha I’ve spent my afternoons with a small group of students (15 regularly come and there are another 10 or so drifters) who I’ve grown to love. They call me “Ciñorita Natalia” and they wait for me by the school’s gate at 4:30 and as soon as they see me they run as fast as they can to give me the first hug. They take my backpack and anything I may be holding from me and, holding hands, we walk to our favorite patch of grass to begin our lesson. This is easily the highlight of my day and is the best cure for any sleepiness or any bad mood. No matter how tired I am, after spending ten minutes with my “chiquitos” I am renewed. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much consistent, limitless love in my life, and this is not a failure on my family and friends’ part, but rather a reflection of how affectionate the kids are. They’re a boundless source of energy. Saying that I’m going to miss them is a huge understatement and now, on this Friday morning, it’s my turn to ask, “What about Monday?”

 

 

I’m not 100% sure why I love this photo so much, but I think it has to do with how candid it is and how easily I can imagine the conversation taking place here. It reminds me of how well I’ve gotten to know the students in my afterschool art class at Arusha School. I can’t believe that it’s already been two months, and in just a few days we will be leaving the continent featured behind my girls.


The photo also displays the personality of these four perfectly – Dorcas (top right), forever distracted; Lilian (top left), always looking out for others (here I imagine she’s observing what the other girls are doing); Dora (bottom left), ever curious; Florence (bottom right), always chatty. As soon I notice myself noticing these details, I feel immensely grateful for the privilege of getting to know these kids well enough to be able to recognize these qualities. Having a small group—around 16 students—has allowed me to truly share in their lives.

 

This particular photo was taken after our second-to-last art class by students who had already finished early. I was somewhere between frustrated and endeared and amused—as always, attempting to keep my still-working students in the cafeteria on task and the ones giggling and taking photos outside careful and gentle with the camera. I remember being tired, but in a content way, after spending over an hour flitting from student to student, hoping to offer some guidance or advice. This photo brings to mind a tired-lovely sort of feeling that makes me want to roll my eyes and laugh at the same time. I think memories of teaching in Arusha will always conjure this feeling, which is why this imperfect, awkwardly framed photo feels important and valuable to me.

 

Normally we are so busy teaching and attempting to assess results that a photo like this might pass by unnoticed. As I searched my students’ photos in order to choose one to write about in this reflection, I caught myself trying to find some other more ‘professional’ photos–maybe one with more even lighting, with subjects doing something recognizable, with a sharp focus, a photo that revealed clever symbolism or the creativity of the photographer. It was as if I were looking for proof that we DukeEngage students had really done something with our time here. But then I realized I don’t need that sort of reassurance. Somehow I keep coming back to this photo, with its cropped version of Africa and four girls in their uniforms dusted in afternoon light and who knows what else. None of them paying attention, some of them moving, all of them in middle of being their lovely selves. It makes me smile.

 

 

I have always had trouble with saying goodbye to people. I think this stems from losing both of my grandfathers, to whom I was very close, during high school. Something about knowing that I may never see someone again tears me apart, especially that person is integrated into my daily life. When I spend two hours every weekday for two months with kids that have so much affection, of course I am going to get really attached to them. The boys in my afterschool group at Arusha School are always either smiling or laughing or playing or saying “Teacha can I have the ball?” But on my last day with them, all I saw were frowns and tears ready to roll down their cheeks. That feeling can only be described as heartbreaking.

 

And of course I am thankful for them. But I wish I wasn’t so loyal to them whenever we worked at other schools. I wish I could have given and received as much love when working with kids at Meru Primary and Swifts and Shalom and everywhere else we went. Sure, it would be much more difficult to say goodbye to this country if I had gotten as attached to every kid at every school that I worked with, but maybe I could have given them something more. Maybe I could have given more hugs and high fives and asked a few more questions.

 

Of course there will always be “Maybe…” and “What if?”, but as I sit and reflect six hours before my flight back to the States, I am filled with so many different emotions. Sadness—because I miss my boys. Regret for not missing the other kids as much. I get to see my parents soon, but I am leaving my kids behind. I may be going home, but I am also leaving home. Amidst all the emotions I feel, hope is a surprisingly strong one. Hope that I will always remember what my Arusha kids have given me. Hope that they will remember what I have given them. Hope that I can make up for not loving the other kids as much. Hope that I will maintain all the connections that I have made here. Hope that I will be able to find the same kind of happiness I have found here again. But most of all, hope that I will one day be able to come back to this beautiful country I have called home for two months. For now, kwaheri Tanzania.

Kiss Before Open, a letter home: week 5, by Katie Ellis


Strange title, you think? Not for the students of Arusha School. On a few lucky afternoons throughout our weeks here in Arusha, Tanzania, we DukeEngage students have been honored to receive notes of affection from our afterschool students on which are scribbled the words, “Kiss before open”. At first, we didn’t really know how to translate this into our college humor centered English dialogue. We didn’t know if it was a physical recognition of gratitude, like an unspoken thank you, that we should abide by or simply an unrecognized statement of endearment to serve as a precursor to what was inside. Now, with five weeks of experience working with the students of Arusha School after school, and after this past week working with them in their regular classrooms on LTP lessons, I think I’ve finally decoded it.

 

It’s been a rather dramatic week here amidst the standard LTP commotion we cause when entering schools. Without fail, our arrival always means an impromptu moving around of teachers’ schedules, and shaking up the usual classroom teaching techniques. This past Monday, we started our week by observing a standard 6 Math class at Arusha School. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted with uncontainable excitement from the class, particularly those students in our individual afterschool programs. We sat in the back and watched as a typical lesson in geometry unfolded in an efficient and uneventful fashion. Nothing to report here, I thought.

 

Next we decided to supplement the blackboard lesson with our own LTP take on math: “geometry of the face”. The students measured their face diameter from ear to ear and did the calculations to show the area of their faces, as if they were perfect circles. We took pictures of their faces with rulers to scale, and pasted them onto the paper with the calculations. Giggles could be heard from across the campus as each student received his or her picture and was allowed to draw a circle on top of a two-dimensional face.

 

Later, in the other Standard 6 class, we arranged word maps related to Tanzania’s cooperation with various countries around East Africa. The students conjured up some extremely relevant connections including barter trade, tourism and diplomacy to wrap up the afternoon.

 

We continued our lessons at Arusha school on Tuesday, with the Standard 5 classes, teaching about adjectives in English and animal environments in Science. As any faithful Biology major would, I leapt into the science lesson with energy and focus. Seeing kids act out different animals and interact as different species is one of my favorite ways of using LTP (which in this case can be interpreted as Learning Through Play rather than Pictures). To my dismay, the students in Standard 5 surpassed me with energy and fell below par with their own ability to focus. It was a hectic morning trying to get the students to adhere to the lesson plan, but some wonderful pictures and projects were produced nonetheless—along with some uncanny lion impressions. Though I was not present for the English lesson, Zuhura, one of my afterschool girls, met me later that day bright eyed and eager to tell me the story she made up in her 5A English class. All in all, Tuesday ended as a tired success.

 

 

Wednesday proved to be the turning point of week five. We spent the day with the Standard 3 classes working on their use of prepositions and comparisons in English. As can be expected from the youngest students of LTP, class 3A (where I stood on a chair attempting to govern the madness that unfolded below me) presented itself with ups and downs. It came to our attention that, contrary to our expectations, the Standard 3 students didn’t know what adjectives were, let alone how to compare them. After much aimless teaching, both comparisons and prepositions turned out to be well conveyed through games played outside in which students would run to, around, behind various objects and dance “slower” or “faster” or (to my dismay), “better” than me.

 

The week’s turning point came not in regards to LTP activities during the school day, but in terms of my own responsibilities as both a student and a teacher here in Arusha. My group of afterschool students came to Superstars (the name they chosen for our afterschool classes) ready to talk about injustices they’ve experienced. Working with a small, all-girls group, my hope has been that my students would talk openly—even about topics otherwise unaddressed in primary schools. I spent about a month trying to create a place where they can say, feel, and think anything, and employ a creative license on all the work we produce. Wednesday’s injustice lesson was proof that my group of girls can certainly say anything, and they feel absolutely everything.

 

Wednesday afternoon I became privy to some information that made me shudder and question the lens through which I’m seeing students and teachers in my time here. As our hour together unfolded, I felt like a trusted recipient of information they hadn’t shared before. Now let me confess; by the time this Wednesday came around, I had barely felt comfortable with the title ‘teacher.’ Suddenly, I was not only their respected teacher, but also their confidante with whom a secret rested. Inside the accustomed realm of my normal life, I can keep secrets. I can be trusted. That’s step one. What I was and still am struggling with is the next impending step, step two—the call to action. It’s a vague, grey area outlining my place in this matter. Do I capitalize on my title as teacher and launch into defense mode in order to help? Or do I fall into the shadows of my role as the constant mzungu outsider simply observing a different culture for a transient time period soon to expire?

 

Though I still haven’t found the surest of footing in my stance among this issue, these are the things that I know:
These girls mean the world to me.
They trust me with their safety.
They are twelve.
They want me to “kiss” before opening a letter and reading what’s inside.

 

And I’ll do anything they ask me to.

 

Kiss before open—Now I know. All they request is a sign of acknowledgement. A simple gesture of affection reassuring those who give you their words and feelings at their own discretion. Just a little something to reciprocate the amicable feelings in an exchange of love and vulnerability. Though I may not know my place in the echelons of power that teachers hold here, I know that the only thing I can do for now is return my amazing girls’ gesture of confidence in me with that same compassion and affection they seek when they write those words on the outside of their notes. So here I go, with ethics and cultural mores in mind, planning out my return “kiss” before opening a new week and a new course of action. It might not be tactful, or smart, or any of the adjectives we taught the Standard five students, but it’s all they ask of me, and all I can give them.