Grade 7 Babies
For a long time it saddened me to think that my only relationships in my community are with my learners. I wanted to know and interact with people my age. I wanted to talk about exes over a chilled Savanna, I wanted to learn how to vosho and gwara gwara with someone above the age of 13. I mean— I even wanted to say the word, “Shit,” without getting a loud gasp. Then, I realized how incredibly fortunate and privileged I am to call these quirky, intelligent, vivacious, and at-times-stinky pre-teens my friends.
Things haven’t always been rainbows and butterflies, though. Coming out of the honeymoon phase with Grade 7 made me want to repeatedly rub cayenne pepper in my eyes. About seven weeks into Term 2, I began planning my escape route. I couldn’t stand their incessant whining about every assignment I gave them. I could not believe they were throwing things at each other in the middle of my class. However, I couldn’t accept that the one thing I enjoyed the most about my service was slowly slipping through my fingers (cue dramatic 80s tunes).
One Friday, one of my learners stood up, walked across the room, and started talking with his buddy while I was in the middle of giving directions. I quietly said under my breath, “I don’t need to be here,” rolled my eyes, and left class twenty minutes early. I came back to school the following Monday and received about thirty letters from my learners begging me not to go back to America.
Today, I took Grade 7 outside to write about their thoughts and feelings using their five senses. I told them they needed to sit alone, in silence, and write for twenty minutes. They knew if they spoke a word they would go inside and write me a three-paragraph essay about why they can not follow directions. Not one learner opened his or her mouth. They sat for the entire twenty minutes and just wrote. Even as I took photos of them nobody said a word. Nobody even looked up at the camera, and we all know how much teenagers love taking photos. My heart was so full. That small, seemingly insignificant moment, reminded me why my learners have been the most important, fruitful, and joyous relationships I have made in this country (even if their pap and beans farts literally destroy my nostrils on the daily).