"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

After an exhausting 37 hour transit from Houston back to Nairobi, I arrived safely at St. Bridget’s Friary. However, the same cannot be said for my luggage.

Here’s the story: My first flight from Houston to London was delayed due to the rain in the United States on December 29th. Although my first flight arrived in London an hour before my next departure to Nairobi, a strange series of circumstances prevented me from boarding this next flight. First, there were apparently no “boarding tunnels” available, so we had to exit the plane using the traditional stairs. However, the stairs took a full twenty minutes to reach the plane. Secondly, once I arrived in the main London terminal by means of a bus, I had to go fetch my boarding pass for my flight to Nairobi, because the British Airways personnel in Houston said that I wouldn’t be able to get the pass until I arrived in London.

I finally reached the British Airways desk 25 minutes before my flight was supposed to take off. However, I, along with about 10 to 15 other passengers trying to travel to Nairobi, discovered that British Airways had already cancelled our flights. Instead, they moved our departure from 10:10 AM to a Kenyan Airways flight at 7 PM later that day, which, I suppose, doesn’t sound too bad. However, I assume the unplanned change in carriers is what caused the problem with my luggage. Even now, three days after I arrived in Nairobi on December 31st, British Airways and Kenyan Airways are still informing me that there is no record of my luggage. Perhaps this is God’s way of saying I didn’t need all of that extra baggage, and I should have just come with the clothes on my back…

Despite this upset, a strange sense about being back in Nairobi fell over me as soon as I arrived—it is a sense of peace mixed with a sense of excitement. I believe that the sense of peace arose out of the fact that I feel Nairobi is the right place for me to be, because there is so much work to be done. Consequently, the sense of excitement arouse out of the fact that there is indeed so much work to be done. Due to this excitement, I decided on a few New Year Resolutions:

1) I will update the blog every two weeks (at least). I miserably failed at consistently updating my blog last year; therefore, I will change that for this upcoming year. Just for your information, I plan to update the blog every other Sunday, and they won’t be nearly as long as they used to be.

2) I don’t think it is right to attempt to make a bunch of changes to an organization if you are either an outsider or new to an organization. I was both of these last term at Pumwani Girls; so, even though I saw a bunch of “opportunities for improvement” last year, I simply observed the problems and made note of them for later terms. I think that this upcoming term will be a good time for me to gradually try to make some changes. However, I don’t want to attempt to make these changes on my own, because I think I would completely fail in doing so. Instead, there are a couple of teachers who have a similarly way of thinking and teaching as me. We have seen problems in religious prejudice, severely low expectations for academic performance, misuse of classroom time, and discipline/punishment issues. Thus, my resolution for this upcoming year is to act with foresight and diligence with these teachers and the administration to begin to solve some of these issues. My blog will keep track of the results. Some examples of my thoughts are: starting a student council, organizing the Physical Education time that was typically used as a 40 minute break last term, and developing tracking and goal systems to keep track of students’ academic progress and discipline.

3) Last term, I had a habit of coming home to St. Bridget's for lunch and sometimes even taking a little nap (those that know me really well, especially those at Port Houston, know how important the nap is...). However, since my students stay at the school from 7 AM to 5 PM, I feel that I should too. Therefore, I plan to stay at the school all day, everyday, so that I can be there for my students.

4) I need to focus more on what is important. Due to my training from Teach for America and from Houston I.S.D., I have a tendency to dwell on my students' scores, instead of focusing on the students as individuals. The original purpose of education wasn't to teach students how to get good test scores, and I don't even think that the underlying purpose of education is so that students can learn. Instead, I believe that the driving purpose of education needs to be to better our lives: to make us happier, wiser, and more honorable individuals. Thus, I need to make sure that my students are excited about coming to school, committed to God (which I am allowed to talk about in Kenyan schools!), and developing values that will guide them as adults. I have some ideas about how to make these ideals tangible in my classroom, but I don't want to expiate about them right now; instead, I will write about these ideas as I use them in the classroom.

5) I need to see more of Africa! There are so many places that I haven’t seen—and I need to see them.

I want to offer another message of thanks for those who have supported me, especially those that donated to make this experience financially possible. Know that I have been careful about the use of the money, and I plan to utilize even more of the funding this upcoming term to truly change the lives of my students.

p.s. I really enjoyed coming home for Christmas so that I could see my family, friends, and my new nephew!

Here are some pictures of the family:


Ed said...

Sorry for the luggage misplace. I like your determination to make a mark in Kenya and your love for my country. God richly bless you! Happy New Year!

goergie podgie said...

God bless u my freind! I wish i could be of any help.... I hv an idea wich i will share once i complete my prep on a project that i will roll it out soon.