July 24, 2014

First impressions

Discover & Learn 2014 HANDS Team:

Today we visited two Christian schools in Managua. As we drove up to the first school I did not even realize the place we stopped at was a school. As the large metal gate in front of the school swung open, Bautista Libertad came into view. It is very different from any Canadian school I have ever seen. We pulled into a courtyard of faded, cracked cement where the students play games during recess and PE classes are held. The Bautista Libertad teachers warmly welcomed us and proudly showed us around the school.

The school is a two-story structure and each classroom has large, glass-less windows that run the length of the room. While this does allow for greater airflow during the heat of the day, it also means greater noise and distractions from other classrooms and the courtyard play.

We soon learned that Bautista Libertad has large class sizes. One teacher noted they had 40 students, another 35.  These large class sizes exist throughout this K-11 school (schools only go to grade 11 in Nicaragua). As we walked about, my immediate reaction was that the classrooms were small in comparison to the number of children being taught, sparsely furnished, and lacked bulletin boards – though the teachers had created displays with the materials they had.  The rooms also had a single whiteboard mounted at the front and I noticed that not one book could be found in most of the rooms. (A teacher later explained that teaching resources and other books were stored in another room and that the students carried most of their school books back and forth from home.) It was obvious that resources were limited, making the teachers job challenging!

Yet, I could also tell that there was much to be excited for. After touring the school, we sat down with several of the teachers and discussed a variety of topics with them. It quickly became evident that though these teachers had a challenging teaching assignment, they were full of love, joy, hope, and excitement about their job. They love teaching in their Christian school. They are passionate about caring for their students and know that their teaching and mentoring is really helping their students. As they shared about their journey as teachers, they consistently talked about their Christian worldview and its impact in their teaching. Because of my experiences in Christian education, these are two words with which I am very familiar and at times cause me to roll my eyes. However as these teachers spoke it became clear that their learning about and integration of a Christian worldview is giving them much excitement and hope. They understand and see the potential impact this integration of a Christian worldview in their teaching can have on their students and country.

It is this belief that causes these teachers to go into work every day with smiles, sharing laughter, and celebrating the love they have for the students and each other. It was very clear that these teachers were full of love and respect for each other – they were a family. They told stories about and celebrated each other. Their camaraderie came from shared experiences and the joy of knowing they were sharing Jesus’ love, compassion, and care with students who so desperately need to hear that. As they talked about their teaching experiences it became clear that the teaching vocation is their calling.

I sat there amazed, wondering how much we could learn from these teachers. How often do I sit in a staff room and complain about a particular student or grumble that I have 23 students while the teacher next to me only has 18 or get frustrated that we don’t have enough resources? Today has been a reminder that not only do I need to be content, but also joyful in my vocation. I am blessed to have the opportunity to impact students with a view of the world that recognizes and celebrates the glory of God and His love for all of us!

- Lauren Van Rooyen

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