One of the best things about living in Ethiopia is the weather. It never gets too cold or too hot. Even during rainy season, the sun comes out every day and I am comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans. The month of February is in the middle of dry season. Every day begins with cool air that gradually warms up during the day, perfect weather for a water fight.
One hot, Saturday afternoon, Lauren, Anna and Sarah asked to use their new water guns, Christmas presents from their father. I had put off allowing them get out these new toys, because I had a feeling I would end up getting wet, too.
Jason, supplied the girls with buckets, which they filled to the brim with cold spigot water from the backyard. Letting him take over, I continued cutting up vegetables and shredding cheese for our dinner.
Jason appeared in the kitchen and whispered, “Come on. Let’s get ‘em.” Hearing happy screams from the yard, I told him, “They’re fine. They’re having a blast. I’m going to finish making dinner.”
Unsatisfied with my answer, Jason insisted, “Come on. We need to get in on this! I’m going to fill a bucket with water and I’ll meet you in the front of the house.”
I finished shredding the cheese, popped the pizza dough in the oven, and hurried to my room to change into shorts. Jason and I made a pact that we would not spray each other. This agreement benefited me the most, because my husband is extremely competitive.
In silence, we filled our sprayers. I turned left and tiptoed around the house. Jason sprinted to the right and we surprised the girls, spraying each of them, catching them off guard.
After the initial shock of being sprayed by her parents, Anna announced, “That’s warm water. Hey, where did you get warm water!”
Jason and I met back at our water supply.
“I accidently filled it with warm water,” he told me. We refilled and launched another attack, spraying Lauren and Anna, while Sarah kept her distance.
“Hey! Where did you get water!” Lauren demanded, following us back to the front yard. Jason held her off and I refilled once again. Sarah, not wanting to be left out, pushed her way past her sisters. While I sprayed Sarah, Anna ducked behind me and filled her water sprayer with warm water. I turned around and she hosed me down, completely soaking me. I let out an involuntary scream, which drew some children from our neighborhood.
I dipped my water sprayer back in the bucket, filling it again. I retaliated, spraying Anna. “I don’t mind!” she giggled, making her way back to the bucket.
Lauren and Sarah engaged in another battle with their father, chasing him to the backyard, where he was searching for more water, cold this time. He too was drenched and laughing.
“I’ve never seen someone spray their mom before!” a neighbor girl chuckled.
“Me neither,” exclaimed her brother.
“Where’s Daddy?” Anna asked.
“I think he went to the backyard,” I told her.
She ran around the back of the house in search of water and her father. That gave me the perfect chance to escape back into the house. I changed into dry clothes and finished up dinner, smiling at the sounds of a happy family.
I love my job!
This school year I had the opportunity to teach the Ethiopian assistant teachers how to lead guided reading small groups. Each elementary classroom has an assistant teacher who helps to keep things organized. For ten weeks, I joined them for their weekly staff meetings, covering topics such as how to prompt children when they make errors, decoding strategies, how to ask good questions, and comprehension strategies. At the beginning, the assistant teachers were rather shy and did not want to share their ideas. However, after a couple of sessions they felt more comfortable and everyone shared their thoughts.
I also learned that it was helpful to give them a chance to work in small groups or with a partner before reporting back to the large group. Near the end of our sessions, I went into classrooms and observed each assistant teacher lead a reading group. I was ecstatic to see them using the techniques we had covered in our sessions and they had wonderful rapport with students. I enjoyed meeting with them later in the day to share the great things I observed and offer a few bits of constructive feedback.
The benefits of this training are two fold: the assistant teachers are equipped to teach children at a higher level and classroom teachers have even more help available to them. The turnover rate of our classroom teachers varies from year to year, but our Ethiopian staff tends to stay much longer. I am confident that our assistant teachers are experienced and a great asset to Bingham Academy. I feel privileged to have had the time to get to know them better and to lead them in professional development.
This semester I am teaching Intro. to Preaching and Intro. to Youth Ministry. (I bet you can guess which one I like better). My students are a lively bunch; our classroom discussions typically spill over into conversations over tea. Since my courses are in the evenings I have been able to continue my studies at Amharic language school. I have this amazing teacher, who is part drill sergeant and part grandmother. She’s likely 137 years old but has more energy than anyone else at that school, including me. I am thankful that she is teaching me how to read, write, speak and dream in this crazy language.