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You Na Crazy

May 4, 2012

Yada is my little crazy man. He will scream “RB!” through the window for half an hour if the door is closed. I can hardly guess how long it goes on when I’m not home.

This morning was hard.  I was tired, hung over, and depressed.  But I pulled myself out of bed, made some coffee, and had a huge trash fire.  That always lifts the spirits small.  I lit a big piece of plastic and stepped back to watch.  Yada came up behind me and grabbed my hand.  We stood there in silence watching the black smoke until something exploded and we ran shrieking back to the house.

He kills me.

All morning he was rolling on the floor begging for bread.  “RB, give me bread?” on a non-stop loop, each time his voice so sure this was the time I’d say yes.  Finally after half an hour I put my pen down, “Yada, you are making my head hurt.  You are making me crazy.”  He stopped and cocked his head, “No, RB, you na crazy.”  I laughed, “Thank you.  But are you sure?”  He nodded, “Yes!”  Then he paused, “RB, give me bread?”

Oh god, help me.

I packed my bag and walked to school.  The road was deserted and the few students I saw tried to convince me to go home.  I went anyway because I’d promised to.  Sure enough, Saye was there waiting for me, followed closely by Emmanuel, Obediah, and a handful of underclassmen.

Saye has burst into bloom the past few weeks and surprises even himself.  I solved some very difficult problems for him then erased and told him to do it again.  I was glad 11th grade Saye was watching because everything I’ve taught his class was necessary to solve the problem and his older namesake stumbled on some of the basics.

The past few weeks 11th grade Saye has sat at the front of class bored, unresponsive, doing other things.  I haven’t forced the issue.  Today I think he saw how real this game is, though, and how carefully I’m trying to cut our path.  This year I’ve given as many 12th graders as I can a leg up and tried to chunk them over the wall.  In 11th grade we’re building a ladder I pray most will be able to climb.  And as much as we’ve fought and struggled and all shed tears on my porch, this 12th grade year is one of the proudest accomplishments on my life.

I’d promised to help some of them create email addresses for their EARTH University applications and today they asked to do it.  So we walked all the way to the County Education Office by my house.  Leaving campus I walked with Festus.  “I’m planning for quizzing next year,” he said.  “I’m going to help you so we can raise your name and the name of Central High high.  We didn’t do right by you this year.”  I laughed, “Dat not true! Besides, what if you’re in Costa Rica??”  He smiled shyly, “Then I will communicate with you and I’ll send someone to carry out the plan.”

God I love these kids.

“Are you sure they’ll let us in?” several worried as we approached the office, pointing to their house slippers and colored clothes.  I just smiled, “I’ll beg.  They know me.”  And sure enough no one batted an eye, “RB, you brought your students?  Come right in.”  Grumpy George even stayed an extra half hour late to help us finish.  I think even he was heartened to see the giant grins on everyone’s faces.

It was like Christmas in Sanniquellie.

Most of them chose “Who was your favorite teacher?” for one of their security questions.  For some reason I was always surprised when they put my name.

Little Prince and I were last and we walked back to town together.  “You have done so well for us!” he beamed.  “I struggle because in 7th and 8th grade my school had no math teacher, but you have tried so hard for us!”  Until a week ago this kid had hardly breathed a word to me, grinning silently and writing seriously from his seat wedged in the middle of the pack.  It just goes to show you never know who is watching, listening, growing.

Even as we left the Resource Center the guards cheered, “Thank you for the students, RB!  Thank you!  Thank you!”  I hope, in some small way, I’m helping to change the perception of teachers here, how they act, what they do.  The other math teacher at school quietly approached me on the road last week and asked for a copy of my mock WAEC.  “I want to practice my math,” he said.  Word on the street seems to be that I know what I’m doing.

Fake it until you make it, baby.  Fake it until you make it.

“The more I give to thee the more I have.”

~William Shakespeare

3 Comments leave one →
  1. blondie permalink
    June 5, 2012 7:38 pm

    Many congratulations to you and your students B! Sounds like you’re getting back what you put into them and so much more 🙂

  2. Emily permalink
    June 7, 2012 1:41 am

    hooray! i love the idea that you never know who’s watching, or who’s taking away something valuable that you might never even think of as valuable in the moment.

    • June 7, 2012 10:08 pm

      I know, Boots. I always try to remind myself that I spent many years as the quiet kid and many of the teachers I’d list as the most important would probably be shocked. I think we influence each other more than we ever realize… and that’s great 🙂

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