Monday, January 7, 2013

The Start of Pre-Primero

Isaac & I returned to Jaco on January 1st (Happy New Year, by the way!) and have been working non-stop since we arrived!  Although I've always said that I prefer to work with older children instead of pre-school aged kids, I see how reaching them is highly effective.  In our tutoring program we had 5 kids in first grade, 2 that did not past the year.  Why didn't the pass?  They don't know how to read.  Almost all the kids we work with repeated first grade for that same reason.  In fact, if you pass first grade the first time around in this community, you are considered quite genius!

This idea came to my mind in November: Help them pass school before they even start. I'm sure it was a God-inspired idea. 

After mulling the idea over for several weeks, I came up with a plan to do a pre-primero; a kind of Head Start program.  I shared the idea with Leslie, our program director, as well as Lidieth, the teacher I work with.  They both thought it was a great idea, so I started planning it for the month of January, when kids are on summer break. (Yes, for all of you people enjoying cold weather and snow, we just started summer!)

After searching & searching for classroom materials: a calendar, number chart, alphabet chart, days of the week, months of the year, etc. I realized that those things don't exist here.  If I want the tools I'm used to teaching with, I need to make them! 

So as soon as we returned to Jaco, Isaac and I got to work making teaching tools. In 6 days we were able to make a sunday school church room look like a preschool, and visit with the families of the kids that would be part of the program.  

Today was the first day- a really good day, but with a really rough start!

In my many years of working with kids, there is one (of many) truths that I have learned:

There are things you just can't plan or prepare for!

Here's the story of the rough start:

2 of the kids in pre-primero are from Copey.  Because it would be a really far walk for them, I am picking those 2 up each morning and dropping them off after school.  I arrived there with Lidieth at 8:30am.  They weren't ready, but I didn't expect them to be.  They still needed to shower and get dressed, and I arrived there early enough to allow those things to happen; to get the ball rolling.  I like to be prepared. After 5 minutes, a small crowed of kids had surrounded Lidieth and I, talking about the summer camp that would be taking place in the afternoon. 

Usually when I get outside of the car I have the doors locked & the windows up.  But the windows weren't up, only the doors locked.  The car has a security system, and until today I wasn't quite sure how it worked. 

While talking to the crowd of kids, one little girl went over to the passenger side of the car, and unlocked the door from the inside.  She then opened the door from the outside, and....... the alarm went off!

I didn't know what to do, or how to fix the problem!

I tried locking and unlocking the doors.  I got in the car and tried to turn it on- but it wouldn't even start.  I called Isaac (who lives 15 min away) and he said that he would get to the bus stop as fast as possible. He has the original keys and remote button to unlock the car.  After trying everything I could think of to turn the alarm off, I assumed the problem was that I was using a copied key.  Also know, that although Isaac only lives 15 min away by car, it takes about 45 min in the bus.  

Lidieth called her husband so that he could come in their car and pick the kids up.  I called my roommate Lisa to go to the church & wait for the kids who were coming walking.

The alarm finally went off- it was a relief to not hear the blaring horn over and over and over again. I think everyone's stress levels went down- mine sure did!  The car still wouldn't turn on, but a new ride was coming and I would just wait until Isaac came.  Yes,  would miss out on the first day of pre-primero that I had worked and planned hard for, but Lidieth could do it, and in the end, its all about the kids learning.

But the silence didn't last long, because that same girl that set the alarm off in the first place, felt the urge to try to open the door again- and in doing so tripped the alarm again. The blaring sound was back.

Let me tell you about  the girl who set the alarm off.  She is 4 years old, really dirty, and really neglected.  She doesn't listen to adults and is so unloved.  Once when I was picking up other kids, she showed me her bleeding head and told me how she was behaving badly, so her dad through a rock at her head. She always wants to go with me, but I never take her because she's not old enough.  (Remember, I've been working only with older kids)  She didn't set off the alarm to make me mad, get my attention, or spite me....  she is a curious, lonely little girl that simply wanted to get in the car.   And through my own frustration at the situation, that is what I had to remember.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  

I then had an idea, that if we opened the car from the outside with the key, maybe the alarm would stop.

We tried it and it worked!!!

 I turned to Jeffry, a 10 year old who was trying to help me problem solve and said the first thing that came to my mind: 

"Ahhhh I'm so relieved! Thank God that he gave me that idea!!"


"Well, I didn't have any ideas that were working!  God speaks to us to help us- and he uses our brains to give us great ideas that will help us in our daily life- just like the key!"

A moment that I didn't plan for; a moment where I could teach a truth about God and how he speaks.  

Yes, it was an extremely frustrating situation- the loud noise, the crowd of kids, the inability to make it stop, and being late for the very program that I was running....  

But in the end, we all had a great first day of pre-primero,  despite the things I didn't plan for :)


Ealcantara said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It's something I've needed to hear! You reacted in a godly way, therefore being able to share God with those little kids!

Leslie said...

oh my gosh, Karen, I am sorry but I am just laughing out loud! What a start!! I am so sorry! But so thankful that God not only works these things out, but then uses it for His glory. You are truly an inspiration!