This was my last day at work. I got to spend it with some of my closest students: The Leadership Program. Previous to this above picture, we did an egg toss with egg babies. They got attached to these raw eggs with faces on them, names and everything. Lots of shrieking and laughs and pure delight. And cake. And soda. And crumbs on the floor.
2 weeks prior to this above photograph, I broke down in front of all of them.
“I am so proud of you,” I said.
A teacher who cries in front of students, out of disappointment, is considered a curse in Tanzania. They were silent. But they also knew, because of our cultural differences, that my tears were happy tears, and it was okay. They weren’t cursed.
I worked my butt off to sustain the 3 programs I started: The Leadership Program, the Running Club, and the Theater/Improv Club which we call Theater Sports. I found teachers to take over in the best way that they could, despite the school changing their after-school schedules and requiring Form 2 and 4 students to study from 3:30 – 5.
I didn’t give up. I went to the Administration, talked to the Principle and Academic Head, who liked what I was doing – and approved my students as exceptions to continue their extracurricular activities.
It was emotional and emotionally exhausting, because I dedicated 110% to these kids, to give them opportunities that would continue to strengthen them as individuals. But I was also in check with the reality – that not everything could be sustained the way that I laid it down. I can only do what I can, and others can only do what they can. Also within the limitations of what the school wants.
I succeeded in finding 4 teachers to sustain these programs the way they could. Of course, in their own way. And that’s all I could hope for. I didn’t care if it wasn’t the same way that I did – all I wanted was for others to also care for these kids and not leave them hanging. They are doing this. In their own way. And it’s brilliant.
SO was it hard for me to say goodbye? Of course. I love these kids. They inspired me. They made me look forward to work every single day. Every single day was different. But I was also ready to let go, and pass on the work, and have the kids continue to grow under new leadership.
All of these kids that I worked with closely, perhaps 50 in total, and other individuals within the school who left an impression on me for one reason or another – are so, so special. Each individual has their gift, and I sought to help them discover it.
I am not saying I was a savior. I only hope that each student I worked with were inspired to discover and apply their gift, and if they hadn’t found it, to find it, and to use it, and to apply it.