Picture this: A foreigner walks into a classroom full of six year olds and says: “I’m here to take Shamal, Darious, and Mark”. The teacher allows this stranger to take these youngsters out of the school, into the busy street, and down the sidewalk. The teacher doesn’t even get up from her desk; doesn’t ask the name of this stranger; and doesn’t ask when the children will be returned. She simply smiles and carries on with her other darlings.
This would never be allowed in the US. A person entering a US school is required to have a badge or other means of showing employment there, or must report to the office, sign papers and get approved before proceeding past the entry. Many people do not proceed past this point. Even students’ parents are restricted to staying at the entry unless prior arrangements have been set up by the teacher. Upon entering a classroom, a visitor would immediately be approached by the teacher and the intent of the visit would be confirmed.
The school I visited today had no front office, no one to check my credentials (it’s a good thing, because I had nothing with me except my hat), no security whatsoever. The small building had two classrooms and a small dusty front yard on a very busy street. Rather than feeling dirty or neglected, however, this school seemed alive with laughter, energy, exceptionally friendly and kind children in the care of motherly teachers who had complete control of their exuberant youngsters.
I had the joyous opportunity to bring these three boys into the town library where they could pick out books and read to me. However, a quick assessment revealed that none could read. We switched gears to playing with letters and considering what sounds they make. I had been given instructions from another cruiser, who volunteers here three days each week, to have these children read to me or proceed with any pre-reading skills. Their focus was excellent until they heard the bell ring at their school nearby. This bell signaled snack time. They dashed back down the sidewalk, dragging me by the hand, to collect their snacks to bring back to the library. Unfortunately, their sugar high from the cookies and juice triggered a rapid decline in focus.
The legalities of the school may be drastically different from those in the US, but the vibrancy and eagerness to learn were alive and well in the children. It made me reflect, yet again, that children are the same everywhere; it’s the adults who are different. The adults at this school exuded such a sense of calm; they trusted the adults who arrived; they trusted the children to behave. I left with a powerful sense of “these children are in the right hands”.