The halfway point

By: Kendra Bragg Harding, El Buen Pastor

We just passed mid-service time and I’ve realized that I’m not ready to be done. I’m just starting to see things really click with my kids at El Buen and I’m not ready to give this up. It’s taken me a long time to cultivate bonds of trust with my learners, and I feel like the seeds are just starting to sprout. In other words, we’ve not even scratched the surface of all that we can accomplish as partners yet. 

I’ve learned a lot over the last six months. I started this with little concept of how to really plan a lesson, or how to structure learning so that it engages multiple regions of the brain and covers multiple disciplines. I started out with no classrooms for my after school kids due to space issues. I started out with a group of preschoolers/pre-k students who had virtually no English vocabulary at all and now they’ve learned over 30 new English words. I started out with music students who didn’t know presto from largo, and now they do. I started with no idea what it’s like to instruct a large group of students and just last week I had the largest group I’d ever instructed (18 kids!) in one of my after school clubs!  

With six weeks left before programs end and only eight weeks of summer programs, I’m starting to feel the crunch. Part of me wants to cram as much information into as little time as possible, and the other part wants to really keep solidifying what we’ve learned and what’s important to know before moving on. I can’t imagine how full-time teachers do this year after year. You get a group of kids for such a short period and by the time things really get going it’s time to say goodbye and send them to the next grade up, hoping you’ve done right by them and given them a new set of skills to use as they grow. I guess you have to trust that the next person who gets them is more skilled (hopefully) than you are, and will build upon what you’ve been able to give them. Then from that, they flourish. 

It’s been a long road and even though I still have half my term to go I realize that I’ve become attached to this place— to its joys and its challenges. I want to stay. I know that my service is not much compared to the hard work of their teachers and parents, but I want to keep adding my little bit to the pile. Maybe what I do really can make a difference. Maybe one of these kids will go on to study music in college because of what they’ve learned here. Maybe one of them will look back years from now and remember how we learned about music as a means of expression, and they’ll use it as a positive outlet.  

I don’t know what the future holds for these kids, but I want to do my best to make it as bright as possible—to give them something to turn to when things get tough. I know the end of my service is not the end of the world, and that it doesn’t mean that my connection to this place has to be severed. If I can help it it won’t be. But even at that I know I can’t stay forever, and I guess that’s what’s hard. Things have to end at some point and I most likely won’t know what most of these kids go on to accomplish with their lives. All I can do is make every moment I get to share what I know with them count.

March 27, 2016