What being a teacher taught me…

If someone had told me 6 years ago that I’d become a Sunday school helper, let alone teacher, I probably would’ve scoffed, or laughed at the prospect of such a thing ever coming to fruition, because:

  1. That would mean standing in front of a crowd of people on a weekly basis
  2. Actually knowing what I’m talking about
  3. Looking after a group of kids who had enough pent up energy to power the entire nation without us ever having to worry about having a blackout ever again.

Fast forward 6 years and that’s exactly how I spent my Sundays. I learnt a few things along the way:

Kids are 1000 times smarter than you think they are

Promising them a cookie in exchange for their silence is as good as a gamble with the devil. Also, four year olds will question you why the colouring pages you handed out are the way they that they are, because “Fish don’t wear hats?!”

You have to be a quick thinker (and runner)

Kids get bored pretty quickly, so playing a game or 2 with them will help keep their minds alert.

Side note: there are actually kids who will try to make a run for it as soon as a teacher’s back is turned so beware!

You don’ t know the true meaning of love

You know how the verse goes, love is patient, love is kind, it keeps no record of wrongs. I didn’t know the true meaning of this until I started teaching, and I don’t think I’ll ever feel a love as great I did while teaching these kids.I didn’t think it was even possible to love another human being besides myself that much. Reading Noah’s Ark three times, and explaining what every single word and animal is in detail doesn’t seem like a taxing task, because the way that their faces light up, makes it worth every minute of it (even if my legs were falling asleep on account of kids sitting in my lap for so long). Sure they throw all the crayons on the ground, and shout and yell and even jump on tables sometimes, but walking around deep in thought and being interrupted by an unexpected hug and hello, makes it all worth while.

Parents don’t get enough credit

Two hours of looking after kids can leave you feeling like you got hit by a bus, or a train. Meanwhile, these parents have to take up this responsibility 24h/7. Like, what???? What magical drug are you taking and can you hook me up??

In life, you never stop learning

I learnt a whole lot more about myself and about life, and God standing up in front of that class than I ever did sitting down in church. Teaching kids about virtues such as love, and forgiveness when I myself am a serial grudge holder was tough. And it forced me to take a deeper look at my own life. Kids are fearless, they don’t care about what people think of them, they don’t mind sharing their opinions with you (even if their confession is that they thought you were 39 years old) and they don’t mind making multiple mistakes because they know that it’s bringing them closer to getting it right.

Age is just a number

From the little ones you carry in your lap and beg to hold your hand, to the older kids who insist “I can do self” (English isn’t everyone’s first language, and tbh I wish I was bi(even tri)lingual the way a lot of these kids were) each age group teaches you something new.

When the teacher I helped under, a sweet young lady named Roselyn, insisted that one day I’d make a “great teacher”, I honestly thought she was pulling my leg, saying things for the sake of building up my confidence. She was right, though. She was right. I wish every single day, that she’d gotten to sit in on one of my classes, that she was still here to see how well She taught me, to thank her for believing in me. She was a mentor to me, and above all she was a friend. She passed away as a result of sickle cell anemia which she had been fighting for quite some time.

Parents would always express their thanks, and as much as I appreciated it, I wanted so badly to express my own thanks, they are the ones who truly deserve it: for entrusting me with looking after and taking care of their child, for taking on the daily task of looking after, for bringing these rays of sunshine into this world that I’ve gotten the chance to cross paths with, to learn lessons from.

Teaching gave me a higher sense of purpose than I’ve ever felt.

Their joys became my joys, their pain my pain, be it because of something as miniscule as a little bump on the head or a misplaced craft, or as severe as the sudden loss of a parent.

It was always a running joke that helping in Sunday school made people second guess having kids one day. Which, all jokes aside, holds true for me anyway. It’s emotionally taxing. Or maybe I just have an overly sensitive, big heart. Worrying about everything became worrying about everything and worrying about every single child’s everything. I never saw them for more than give or take 2 hours a week, but it’d lead to a week of: Did _____’s grandma get better the way we prayed for in class? Did ______ arrive safely after their trip? How is _____ coping after the death of their relative?

The door to this life has closed since I returned to South Africa. The church I currently attend doesn’t feel like home the way Emmanuel Baptist in Nairobi did, and I doubt it ever will. And maybe, just maybe, I’m scared to put in that kind of effort again, form emotional attachments like that again. When that time comes again, I’ll be ready. A couple of weeks ago, an urgent last-minute request for an extra Sunday School helper found me surrounded by 4 to 8 year olds trying to teach me Afrikaans or tell me about the toys they had at home. And it was nice. Who am I kidding, it flooded my system with a measure of warmth, love and joy I’d forgotten was even possible to feel. There’s no right way to end this story…. But maybe that’s because this story isn’t over yet ❤

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