Sometimes God has a plan that makes us smile. Today we went to Ms Agnes' planning to teach Harriet, the nursery school teacher, how to use toys with the children at school. This is something they've never had the resources to do, so the nursery children sit in benches, 30 of them, crammed into a small classroom for 4 hours each day (except snack time!). They write in composition books, copying what the teacher writes in the board, and they practice their English.
When we arrived, we found out that Harriet's brother had passed away, so she had gone home to be with her family. I asked the other teachers what they do when something like this happens, and they explained that they usually get one class busy, run teach the other class, then get them busy, and go back and forth all day. I told them about how we have substitute teachers, and they thought this was incredible. Then, I offered to be their substitute teacher for the day! God knew to send us prepared for the task! :-)
First, we spread the children out outside and gave them bags that had been packed by one of our team members. Each bag had a coloring book, crayons, and a small stuffed animal. Because God is in charge of our packing, there were exactly as many bags as children present in the nursery class today! The children are taught to stay in the lines and follow directions, so their coloring in coloring books was really pretty amazing for their age. They were absolutely thrilled to have their own crayons, and we colored for about 45 minutes (that's a lifetime in 4 year old attention span time!)
Remember sweet Pamela?
Pretty soon it was time for the real fun. The generous teachers at my preschool, Oak Hill UMC Preschool, lovingly spent the last workweek of school going through their classrooms looking for toys that we had extras of, and, like they do best, helped me purposefully plan for good play by selecting just the right ones. It worked! Today we taught our children how to pretend and construct, and interact with each other!!!! We had to demonstrate everything. We've taken toys before, but it's typically small single toys (small balls, hot wheels). This was different. We began by explaining that these were school toys and did not belong to them. The toys would be staying at school, and would be available to play with during school. They were baffled. Then we began pulling out toys! We had to demonstrate how to play with each toy, and the children were amazed that they could hold and play with more than one toy at a time. We had enough. Enough for them to play and share and interact. We showed them how to build a block tower, knock it down, laugh, and rebuild it. We showed them how to pretend with the trains and the small animals. (They loved making noises "vroom," "roar!"). We helped them understand what play food was and how to pretend to serve it to their friends. They played with tools, and solved problems as they tried to screw things into place. Best of all, the entire place took on that happy sound of children playing... Talking to each other and giggling. I heard "jennifah, look!" a million times... Just like in my own classroom. I had pretend tea, drove a train, attacked dinosaurs, and built towers, and thought to myself, "if teaching is the best job in the world, then teaching children to play for the first time has to be heaven on earth!!!"
Nursery school ends earlier than primary school, so when the teacher rang the bell, we taught them to clean up (yes, of course we sang the song!), and waved good-bye to lots of smiling faces!
Next, we took some toys and games into the primary classes.
Puzzles for the first graders-- they worked together and problem solved and loved it! One of our team members patiently demonstrated and then helped them through each one.
Bingo for the second graders -- I showed them how to play and they were hooked. (Again, our set contained exactly one bingo card for each child in that class-- no more, no less!) the teachers came in to watch and said in amazement, "and they are practicing their numbers!" (Praise God for math manipulatives that are fun!!!)
The third graders got a large set of K'nex. They played with one of our team members and their K'nex so well that when the teachers rang the bell for lunch, that class did not come! We had to go get them!
Pretty incredible day. Our kids are among the most fortunate orphans in Uganda-- I'm sure of it. Thank you for helping them get an education, and for sending toys that add a whole new dimension to that education!
Later in the afternoon, we visited the outskirts of Masese, the Jinja slum. Kaitlynn met someone there last year who helps a group of women. Kaitlynn brought these women's beads back to the States and sold them. She has now returned with money and supplies for these 10 women, who have 33 children between them. Today we met with all the women (and most of their children), and Kaitlynn asked each of them what they were currently doing to support themselves. She focused on what they were doing, and deflected all the talk about what they wanted. She explained to the women that she did not want to create a dependence on her, but rather, she wanted to help each of them grow in their own ability to sustain themselves. It was wonderful to see her praying over each woman and her family individually, and see the huge smiles on the children's faces as they opened their backpacks from her and found a soccer ball!