What a wonderful feeling to be back!!
South Africa stole my heart in 2018. My experiences in the township last year are irreplaceable. That is what makes this trip all the more exciting!
This year I am reassigned to the same crèches from last year: In His Footsteps & Overcome Educare. Being back felt as if I had never left. Most of the children who I worked with last year were still there! We all recognized each other and saying hello filled my heart with so much love!
In His Footsteps has come a long way since last year. They have redone their crèche and have added another classroom. The teachers seem to work very well together. It was mentioned that Candice, the principal, had been an amazing and collaborative leader. That is so vital in the universal challenge of teacher retention with in early education.
On the first day in the crèche I saw teacher Wendy using a group deep breathing technique to calm the children before morning ring. Once we were able to sit together during nap time, I shared my work with mindfulness and stillness that I have been implementing in my own classroom. I told her how impressive it was watching the children calm their bodies with deep breathing. Her connection with all 25 children is incredible. She is able to make every child be seen and an individual despite the large ratios. I am so excited to see where these next two months take us. I have so much to learn from Wendy!
At Overcome, I also felt back at home. One boy from last year walked in to the after school care and hugged me like he just saw me the other day! I looked at him like, “You remember me?”. He just smile and nodded and kept on putting his things away. I spent over an hour in small groups with some children working on a math puzzle. On girl was so eager to push herself to figure out the equation to find the matching piece. We finished the puzzle 3 times! She saw me using my fingers to help her with the addition and subtraction. When I returned from a bathroom break, she was working with another child and I saw them trying to use their fingers to add! I felt so at home and in my element working with the children.
I was also able to lead over 20 children in a deep breathing exercise. The class was very hyper right before bed so I decided to read them my book “Quiet” by Tomie dePaola. That was the first time I ever read the book to a class. The children realized that the stillness of the book required them to be calm. At the end we all sat and did deep breathing while the children were called one by one to use the toilet and go to bed. The energy level was so calm. It was very gratifying seeing my research being effective in that challenging moment.
The dynamics of the classrooms is different from home but the children are universal. They want to be seen and they want to learn. That first week was so uplifting and a great reminder of why I have chosen to return to South Africa!!!