I have been very fortunate in my life to participate in so many aspects of educating children. I am a teacher, mentor, counselor, school board member, and conference presenter. And once each year I am rewarded with the opportunity to travel to Kenya to do missions work. While in Africa, I work with children during the day and present to teachers in the evening. In my spare time, I deliver school supplies to students in economically challenged schools. All three of those activities are gratifying and rewarding, but the most rewarding of the three is the work I do with teachers.
I have presented in this village for eight years now, and each time I present I am more impressed with the teachers' faith, positive attitudes, and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the children they teach. For every idea that my fellow presenters and I share with them, they eagerly take notes, ask great questions, and participate positively in role-plays and small focus groups. What is even more mind-boggling is that these teachers do not receive certification points, a stipend, or "comp time." They come to the sessions because they believe they have been called to teach. Their philosophy is "Everything is about helping our children be the best they can be."
In Kengami, the schools and community are economically challenged -- but that does not stop teachers from giving children the best that they can offer. Most of the schools do not have computers, SMART Boards, LCD projectors, libraries, or even adequate lighting. They don't have many other things that most teachers around the world take for granted. The Educarers in Kengami have something more important though: they have love for children and a true understanding of their role in the schools.
Marian Wright Edelman once said, "Service to others is rent we pay for our existence here on Earth." The teachers I have met in Kenya live that statement. They understand that they are there to educate, serve, and inspire children.
One of the things that inspires me most about the educators of Kengami is how proactive they are. People who are proactive understand that there are two circles in life: a circle of things you can control and a circle of things you cannot control. The proactive Educarers we work with in Africa focus on the things they can control -- such as their attitudes, accountability, approaches, beliefs, purpose, and commitment.
What a powerful lesson that is to teach teachers all over the world: "If I focus on what I can control, I can do more for children regardless of my resources and circumstances."
I have been fortunate and blessed to travel to Africa. I believe I have been sent there to help the teachers in Kenya. But the more I think about it, the teachers of Kengami have really taught me a more powerful lesson: we can do more with less if our minds and hearts are in the right place, if they are focused on the children.
When I reflect on my work in Kenya, I think about a poem my kindergarten children recite daily.
We are powerful
We have the victory
We know that's right
If you do the things today
That others won't do
You'll have the things tomorrow
That others won't have
Believe it, think it, achieve it
But most of all just do it
Yes we can, yes you can, yes I can
I am a victor
Not a victim
Let's face it
We're on the road of success!
The teachers in Kenya see themselves as victors, not as victims. But, more important, they see their students as victors.
We educators face challenges every day. Regardless of those challenges, we can only be truly successful if we maintain the mindset that We are here for children. We are here to help them achieve their full potential. That's what I try to do each day. I try to model the beliefs of those teachers I visit in a small village called Kengami.
Article by Carlton Ashby
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