Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coming Home

July 6th

We left Saturday morning at 6:00am and flew to London.  We stayed the night at the Sofitel and then flew out from there about 11:45 the next morning.  It was a little surreal being on the plane and knowing it was over.  I was ready to see family and friends, but it was a strange feeling that what I had been thinking about, praying about, and planning for so long was already coming to a close.  It had seemed so far away, then it came and went so quickly.  
We made it!
I am SO glad I made the choice to go, but I know I left a piece of my heart in Zambia.
When I returned, people kept saying, "It must have been hard to leave".  My answer was always "Yes, but it was harder to be back."  It didn't really hit me until the day after I returned home.  I cried a few times that day, just overcome with emotion about what God is doing there and how it changed my perspective.  I hope that I am able to return next summer and to see some of
those precious kiddos again!  They forever changed my heart!

Some of the reflection questions I wrote about on the plane:

For me, Zambia means:
-precious faces of children with which I can now connect names and stories
-stories of heartache, poverty, suffering, and pain
-stories of rescue from that pain and suffering
-home for my sponsored child
-the place I first did international missions
-a place of hope for thousands of kids being rescued
-a place God is really working and saving lives
-a place which will now forever be part of my heart

When I think of leaving, I feel:
-sad to leave the children
-guilt for returning home to such a comfortable place and so much
-curiosity - Will I be back?
-thankful for how I have been blessed
-grateful for the opportunity
-amazed at how much God is doing there
-empty from giving so much emotionally and physically, yet completely full
-in awe of how big our world is, how many things are going on beyond the bubbles we live in daily. 

God is greater than all of it!  He loves all of His children, and I am so grateful that
I could be a small part of His plan for Zambia.

"Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people!"  ~Psalm 96:3

Day 13: Last Day at the School

July 5th
This was our last day at the Tree of Life school.  At the morning assembly, Teacher Sandra told the kids it was our last day, said some sweet things about us, and then had the kids pray for us.  It was so cool to hear them all praying out loud at once.  In the classrooms, we gave each teacher and class their gifts and a class picture.  They LOVED the picture ("snap").  They love to see themselves.  
Teacher Mwangala and Teacher Dennis

one of my Grade 4 classes
one of my Grade 5 classes
Teacher Mwangala opened each part of the gift and held it up for them to see.  They would smile and yell for each little thing.  They got the most excited about the colored pens!  :)  They started saying "Thaaaank yooou Teacher Ashhhhrey!"  Each teacher had a kid pray for me, and it was really sweet.  The kids all wrote precious notes, and I got a lot of hugs and "save travels", "I will miss you!", and "Will you be back in twenty-fourteen?"  So sweet!

After school, we went back to start packing up our suitcases then headed back to Tree of Life to see the opening of a new house.  While we waited on the new girls to come, we got a lot of hugs from the kids! They knew we were leaving the next morning.   

It takes $100,000 to build a new house at the Tree of Life.  Sometimes families get together to raise the support to build a house.  Tia's family worked together with 2 other families to build the Halleluja House, which was opening that day.  They already build Glory house, and they will be building the Amen house next:  Glory, Halleluja, Amen  :)  

All of the kids came to the new house to welcome the 12 new little girls moving in.  They got to go inside and explore all of the new things, their new beds, kitchen, bathrooms with running water, etc.  They all got bright pink shirts, cute denim shorts, and bright green headbands with flowers.  They looked precious!!  
Tia was so sweet to invite us in, and we got to see all of the cute decorations.  
The girls all gathered around the kitchen table to sing Happy Birthday to Hallelujah house and to eat cupcakes.  They were licking the cupcake wrappers clean!!  
One little girl who already lives at Tree of Life came over to the house and said that one of the new girls was her sister!  She had not seen her in a year!!  What a special reunion!  
The girls all looked so happy yet overwhelmed.  

A couple of them were in Grade 5, so I had them in class a few days before they moved in.  Before they move in, they stay at Chelstone (sp?) for a little bit which serves as a transition house to help them with some of the stress from their past and leaving home.  They start bringing them to school a few days before they fully move into the house to help them adjust slowly.  They were excited to see me since they have seen me in class all week.  I think it was nice for them to see a familiar face amidst all of the new people.   
one of my Grade 5 girls who just moved in! :)
When we got back on the van after the house opening, several kids followed us. It was the last time we would be at Tree of Life.  Waving goodbye was sad, but I had a hopeful feeling that I will see those kiddos again!

After the house opening, we went to dinner with Kathryn to celebrate our 2 weeks.  We went to Manda Hill, the mall in Lusaka.  I didn't even know Lusaka had a mall until we got there.  It was a stark contrast to where we had been all week.  We ate at a place called Mugg and Bean.  It had a coffee shop feel, and they had sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, etc.  It was really good!  It was nice to debrief together and to talk to Kathryn more.  We talked a lot about her job, what the schools need, etc.  I cannot imagine being in charge of 18 schools, 68 teachers, and about 3,500 kids!  I will be praying for someone to come alongside of her to help manage all that entails.

We also had to say goodbye to our driver, John that night.  He was wonderful!!  He always got us places on time, and he was so nice!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 12: July 4th

Happy July 4th!
Today we handed the classroom back over to the teachers and observed.  I was proud of Teacher Mwangala for incorporating a few things I had showed her, and I think she was really trying, especially with reading and phonics.  Teacher Dennis also incorporated some rhyming and small things into the phonics lesson today.  

We released the kids a little early so we could show the teachers a model lesson using the new textbooks they will be receiving (the ones we organized from the containers).  It was a 1st grade textbooks, and we modeled it in a Grade 7 classroom.  I thought it would be very easy for them, but it wasn't.  I pre-taught some of the vocabulary before we read the story together.  I had the kids pronounce it and then use it in a sentence.  One of the kids raised his hand and said the word correctly:  "rolled".  Then he said, "My friend was very rolled to me."  He, of course, meant rude.  I was shocked and so glad it happened so that the teachers could see how even though they can "read" the words, they may not be gaining meaning from the story if they do not know the vocabulary.  

We also had the students predict what they thought the story would be and answer some critical thinking questions at the end.  This was very new to them.  They are used to rote answers with very little creative thinking.  They want to know if the answer is "right".  

After the morning session, we had a meeting with the teachers during lunch.  We shared the reading assessments we had done, textook/teacher's guides ideas, and how we would change the schedule to incorporate a more solid block of reading and math time.  I think it was very overwhelming to the teachers.  There were some awkward silences as they processed what we were saying, but we tried to reassure them that this was to help them, not add anything extra.  They are a product of how they grew up and were taught, so the thought of having to be creative with lessons or put more thought into planning scares them.  They like it all laid out and do not know how to pull resources together to supplement instruction.  

I was shocked to see how little they actually use real books.  They have a library, but I never saw a kid with a book.  The teachers never read picture books to them.  They NEED those literature experiences to build vocabulary and schema.  Hopefully with our guidance and new resources, they will start to pull in more literature.  

It was eye-opening to see that what is common sense to us is shocking and big adjustments for them.  These are also the cream of the crop teachers.  I cannot imagine teachers in the community schools! 

After school, we went to the hotel for a 4th of July dinner and celebration.  It was so fun!  I was not expecting anything so big.  The kids had made posters and decorations, Cynthia had a big American flag hanging up, and she brought flag plates and napkins with her from the States.  
They had spent all afternoon grilling, and they had ribs, steak, chicken, and burgers.  We also had potato salad, corn, and green beans.  Cupcakes with American flags in there were the dessert.  We sang the Star Spangled Banner before we ate, and even the Zambians stood up and clapped when we finished.  
Warren played the guitar after dinner, and we sang patriotic songs and some worship songs.  We all gathered around the swimming pool (that had no water).  The kids show off some smaller fireworks.  We were expecting a few sparklers, but in the pool, the older boys had set up some larger ones.  I have never seen big ones so close!  The Zambians came out to see what was going on.  It was so loud and bright.  I think I screamed every time one went off.  Sadly, my camera was full so I did not get any video of the larger ones.  It was so much fun, though!!


Days 11 and 12

July 2nd and July 3rd

It was another Zambian holiday, so we did not have school.  We took advantage of the day, though, and assessed all of the kids at the school who were in Grades Baby class through 7.  We had gone around to all of the houses and let them house mommies know when to send them to school for their scheduled time.  We used a kindergarten reading assessment that Allison had used in her classroom.  It had them identify all of the letters, both uppercase and lowercase, all of the letter sounds, and numbers 1-20.

It was amazing to see some kids in Grades 4 and above that did not know all of their letters or sounds.  Some of those students are new to school, and some of them just still cannot hear the sounds very well.

We saw some common trends, so we knew that they were probably not being taught correctly at school.  For example, most kids said a "ch" sound when asked to say the sound for the letter H or "yeee" for the letter Y.  They also say "zed" for the letter Z, but that is just cultural.  When you ask a Zambian child to sing their ABCs, you will not hear our traditional tune, but the tune will sound familiar.  They sing it to our New Year's song - Auld Lang Syne.

It was a long day, but it was very good baseline data for us and to leave with the teachers.  You could really see which students are behind and are having difficulty with basic letters and sounds.

That night, we spent a lot of time preparing lessons for the next day since we would be full-teaching.  We had to prepare several subjects for 2 different grades.  It made me realize how spoiled I am with everything at my fingertips in my own classroom.  I had to get very creative with very few resources - markers, construction paper, and books.  :)

Writing out lesson plans by hand and making a matching game for science 
Lesson planning at night
no manipulatives - making my own visuals!

Today was a full teaching day.  In true teacher fashion, we loaded ourselves up with supplies to head out for the day.  I think our driver John thought we were crazy every morning.  It would take us awhile to all pile in the van with all of our stuff! :)  We were so happy to have Cynthia join us.  She is a PPCD (pre-K/special needs) teacher in the States, and she is wonderful!  She taught the teachers in the Baby class SO much this week in just the short time she was able to be with them.  My favorite thing was that she taught the little ones the "Skinna marinky dinky dink" song, and they all came out singing it to me that day!  So cute!!  

I taught Grade 4 in the morning and Grade 5 in the afternoon.  Teaching Zambian curriculum can be funny at times.  Today I had to teach fertilizers.  Amy had to teach corporal and capital punishment to 2nd graders!!

These are some examples of the lessons in the books from which the teachers teach.  


In Grade 5 math, I had to teach fractions.  Teacher Dennis was going to teach adding fractions, but I had a sneaky suspicion that the kids did not truly understand basic fractions.  I was right! :)  The first thing I did was tear a piece of paper in "half" unequally in front of them, and we talked about equal and unequal.  Next, I folded one equally, tore it down the middle, and asked how much each person would get (half).  They could not tell me!  We went back to the basics.  I had visual picture representations that I had made the night before, and I was so glad.  They really needed the visuals!  I hoped that Teacher Dennis could see the benefit in using the models and making meaning out of what they were doing instead of just learning the steps to adding and subtracting fractions.  

In Grade 4, I taught number patterns in math.  We discussed vocabulary and did several examples together.  I had patterns on sentence strips that we matched to the "rules" together.  I gave them some to work on independently, and I gave them a "challenge" question to work on at the end.  They are not used to this at all!  They ALL want to get every single answer correct, and it was hard for them to understand that I just wanted them to try and that it was okay if they did not get it.  

They were all SO engaged for a solid 30 minutes working on 4 number patterns I gave them.  It was so eye-opening to me!  They could not see the pattern of adding/subtracting 10.  They had to make tick marks in their books to help them count.  I showed them how to look at the number line above the white board and use it, and we talked about how easy it is to add/subtract ten.  They were really thinking and learning, and I LOVED it!  One sweet boy at the front of the room worked SO hard on the challenge question.  He finally got it, and I have never seen a smile so big.  I gave him a high-five. He loved it and was proud of himself!  As he walked out the door that day, I patted him on the back and told him how great he did and how proud I was.  This whole lesson was very rewarding as a teacher, especially a math teacher.  I loved seeing them have to actually think, problem-solve, and use number concepts instead of just rote memorization.  They were actually learning! :)  
Another lesson I did that day was on the importance of livestock.  It was a review, and I had them work with a group to match the livestock with the reason it was important.  
It was such a simple activity, but they had to talk with each other and engage more than just copying it down in their exercise books like they are used to.  They love working together, and they were so proud when they would call me over to check their work.  

 Allison did not have such a good day in Grade 1, however.  She had been having a very rough time with a student named Isaac.  He had been disruptive, pushed, punched, threw things out the window, etc.  He reminded me of a student I had last year.  People assume that because we were in Africa and school is such a privilege that you don't have behavior problems.  We learned that KIDS ARE KIDS!  In fact, some of these students have problems because of where they came from.  This day, Allison had to walk Isaac home because he would not leave school.  He got very frustrated with her when she tried to take his hand away from punching the older boy who was carrying him, and he bit her.  She was upset, and it was a very rough day.  As a teacher, it is easy to lose your patience in situations like this.  Then you hear his story.  He has 2 brothers, and they were basically all on their own.  Whomever they were living with only gave Isaac beer to drink from the time he was 2, and he was addicted when he arrived at Tree of Life.  The oldest brother was at Tree of Life also, but he ran away at 14 to be married.  That really put things into perspective.  These kids come from hard, hard backgrounds.  Sometimes this is reflected in their behaviors at school.  

One of the things I say often:  Kids need (and crave) structure and love.  To me, it is the two most important things in a classroom.  That's exactly what little Isaac needed.  He came up to Allison later in a different setting and said, "Teacher Allison I love you."  It doesn't get better than that.  

Days 9 and 10

June 30th and July 1st 

Sunday was a wonderful, relaxing day!  We had our own "church" time with our small teacher group on the porch outside of Amy and Allison's room.  It was a wonderful time of praise and worship, talking, and praying.  It was a great way to start the day!
Not actually that morning, but a cute picture on the porch :)
After our devotion time, we went to lunch at Sugar Bush.  It is SUCH a cute place out in the country.  Clay and his family live in Zambia and work for the ministry full-time.  They said that he manages to find all of the neat places to go in Lusaka! :)  
Sugar Bush had it's own garden, and the food was delicious.  
If it were a restaurant in Dallas, it would be considered very trendy because it is very vintage.  You eat outdoors at cute picnic tables, and they even have a play area for the kids.  

In the front of the house, they have a gift shop with really cute items.  I bought a very cute turquoise bag and a wooden platter for mom and dad.  
After lunch, we went to the Tree of Life just to play with the kids!  It was so fun to just hang out with them.  They were running around on the playground, playing soccer, and just being kids.  
They are so creative with what they play with!  They made a drum!!
They will play with anything they find on the ground...even a shower head!
Zambian children love to sing and dance!!  We got pulled into the circle to do a chant/dance with the girls. 
 Little Evans joined us.  How cute is he!?  If you listen carefully to the very end of the video, they say "Go Ashrey".  I love how they can't say the L in my name.  :)

After a fun afternoon of playing, we headed back to the hotel for dinner.  Our amazing Cynthia cooked dinner.  We had roasted chicken and fresh vegetables from the garden we went to earlier at Sugar Bush.  She spoiled us!! :)

Kathryn had our teacher group over to her house at AmCom for breakfast.  We did not have school that day because it was a Zambian holiday.  Apparently, Zambians love their holidays.  We headed out to Family Legacy's "car park" where they park the containers they ship over from the US.  In Lusaka, they have "car parks".  People do not have places to safely park their cars on the streets, so they pay to park it at a car park where there is a guard then walk home.  The car park is basically just a large area of RED DIRT!  There are many cars there that don't look like they have gone anywhere in a long time.  Some don't even have wheels anymore!  
We unloaded 2 containers FULL of thousands of textbooks.   Each container costs about $20,000 to ship over! These textbooks had been donated because they were out of adoption in Texas.  Sorting them and getting them to the schools has just been too big of a job for Kathryn to do alone, so we were happy to help.  The schools will love having these new readers.  
We worked from 10:00 to 5:00 with an hour lunch break in between at Blue Moon.  There were 8 Zambian guys helping us move the heavy boxes.  We still did not finish!  We took all of the books out, sorted them by titles, counted them, figured out how many we wanted to give to each of the 18 schools, then put them in new piles by school.  It started getting dark, and we were not even close to finished, so we had to load them all back in the container.  I am pretty sure the Zambians thought we were crazy and that we were just moving books from one place to another.  There was a method to our madness, though!  We paid them each 40 Kwacha, which is almost equal to $8 for the entire day.  Seems so little to us, but that was pretty good pay for a day's work.   
When we were finished we were COVERED in red dirt.  I am sure this person doesn't really want this picture posted, but you cannot get a true idea of just how dirty we were unless you see this.  This is what her feet looked like after she took off her socks and shoes! 
 Needless to say, we were exhausted and ready for a shower when we got back!!  We were happy to help Kathryn, though, and we hope that the textbooks are helpful to the teachers! :)