Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas in the Classroom

Second grade has been learning about Christmas around the world.  So for the past couple weeks, we've been celebrating Christmas!  Since Niger does not get snow and there aren't too many Christmas decorations in a primarily Muslim country, second grade has helped me get in the Christmas spirit!

Miss Farrer, the elementary principal, came in as a guest reader to tell us about the legend of the candy cane!

We made all kinds of Christmas decorations for our bulletin board!

Dr. Waldron came in to play a few Christmas carols on her harmonica!  The kids hummed along and sang the words to "Silent Night." 

Mrs. Eberle made an amazing pinata for our class!  We learned about Christmas in Mexico...what better time to have a pinata?!

It was actually quite difficult to break open!

And of course, we ended the day with cookies and candies galore!

Miss Knox and her second graders, halfway through the year!


Teaching at a school for mostly missionary kids has given me a new perspective.  This constantly changing community has given me an appreciation for what missionaries and TCKs (third culture kids) experience.

Last week I said goodbye to a very good friend of mine.  We met upon my arrival in August, as she had just arrived a few days earlier.  And then 4 months, like a flash, was packed full of memories together and we cling to them on our separate continents.  Yet again, I must say goodbye to a dear friend this week.  And I dread it because my heart is raw.  Life is so rich because of the relationships that we form with one another.  And so I praise God that it is difficult to say goodbye.  And I ask Him to make it a "see you later."  When hearts share experiences, strong bonds are formed.  And while it feels like those bonds are painfully breaking, that I'll have to start all over and open up to someone new, I know God is trustworthy in ALL things.

And so, here I feel like a missionary kid.  Vulnerable, hurting, doubting.  And then I am reminded of who God is:

I have a student who is new to Sahel Academy this year.  He has had quite a difficult time adjusting to Niger and often talks about his old friends and his first grade teacher from back home.  My heart breaks for him because he has made the choice to put up walls and is sometimes quite a bully to his peers.  I had a long conversation with him one day about his poor attitude and choice to block others out.  This struggling 7 year old told me that the kids in the class are "annoying and bothersome."  Ha.  I told him I know people like that too and we still need to obey Jesus' Word to love our neighbors.  I asked him if he thought he'd have a very good time in Niger if he didn't make any friends.  "No," was his hesitant response.  As we continued to talk, we decided that it was his choice whether or not he would make friends and enjoy his time in Niger.  Because I had 14 other students waiting for me, our conversation ended and his attitude continued to scream "Keep away!"

The story continues:  Just last week, we added a new student to our 2nd grade class.  I spoke to the class before she came to let them know they would have a new peer.  I asked the struggling-to-adjust student to share his experiences of being the "new kid" in school.  This rarely quiet class didn't make a sound, eyes glued, as their peer spoke about how he'd felt scared and nervous.  He told us he missed his friends back home.

I asked the class to raise their hand if anyone else missed someone to whom they had to say goodbye.  Every hand went up.  Second graders began to share the places they've been and the friends and family they miss so much.  We looked at the world map and fingerprints covered continents as students began pointing to all the places they had friends and family.  I told them about the friend to whom I said goodbye last week.  We came up with ideas about how to make the new student (who came just this past week) feel loved and welcomed.  It was a precious moment in second grade that day.  The vulnerability and honesty of one hurting student led to such meaningful and powerful conversation.  A glimpse of healing.

And at the end of the day, this same struggling student came to me.  "Miss Knox, I have some good news," he told me.  "I made a friend today."  I couldn't help but to burst with excitement!  "Wow!!  That is so exciting!  I am so proud of you!"  What a celebration!  When the students wanted to know what happened, I let him share with his peers the good news.  More healing.

My heart breaks for these little ones who know no stability.  And so I am thankful for the rock solid constancy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  And I praise God for the small victories that come through the ministry of relationships.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  Hebrews 13:8