Parents Evening TCK style

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Parents evening, the name (or whatever it is called locally) still strikes a fear in my heart.  It’s not that I doubt my children’s behaviour or ability – I know they are more than a school grade.  It’s memories of confusion, misunderstanding, frustration and sadness – and I’m the parent.

As the first teacher arrives he tells my son to sit in his chair and he joins me, the other side of the table and he tells him to begin.  My son is confused but also amused and so asks the teacher how he thinks he has done.  They swap back around and I hear reports of the ways my son helps hand out books in class, he gets distracted at times, generally works hard and is a good student.  Presentation is an issue, I explain it always has been and the teacher says he used to have the same problem and it’s okay, he’ll get there.  I ask my son if he has got anything to ask or say to the teacher?  “Thank you.”  My tears well up and the teacher is taken aback, humbled, amazed and appreciative – in all his years….

With that word – presentation, my son and I were both taken back to his overseas school where ‘parents evening’ was held with students and parents all together in a class.  The only foreigners the first barrier was that usual one of what happens here?  Trying to understand the fast speaking teacher whilst rushing through your head the search for the norms and expectations of this setting.  The teacher began picking out the best students and praising them, how wonderful they are, how beautiful their hair, how well they are doing (often they were paid to like this child).  They would then go around the class and pick out the faults of the others, not good at this, bad at that, not trying, no hope, waste of time.  The aim was humiliation – it worked.  As the only foreign child in the class he got no favours, he is disorganised, untidy, his writing is atrocious. There was no use trying to explain dyspraxia and it’s effects (I did once try) or explaining he was really left handed but not allowed to use that here (yep, tried that one too).  There was no mention of his friendships, the things he was good at or his kindness such as the time he took some paper and sticky tape from home and covered the broken window that had been blowing freezing winds and rain into the unheated classroom.  When he left the school after four years all his teacher could say was the general greeting of ‘safe roads’.

That was why his reaction was ‘thank you’, someone who had seen his messiness and untidiness but saw more and focused on that.  A teacher who first talked of his character and then discussed his academic life.  Every time we sit down I feel the need to explain to the teacher first that he isn’t really English, he hasn’t been through the system and has only been here for two years.  My son rolls his eyes at me but they see the funny blonde haired, blue eyed, gangly teen and don’t realise that he’s never learnt those grammatic rules or writing style – but he could do it in another language!  When they do they understand him a bit more and can take the time to explain, maybe it’s just the mum in me jumping to his defence.  But I see the miracle of his determination in sticking at school to become a student who is achieving and enjoying the experience which demonstrates the resilience of so many TCK’s.  Laughing about their history, which to others is a horror story but to them is part of who they are, and also the challenge of what sets them apart.  With his ‘thank you’ I again realise the richness of how he values and sees beauty in simple things that others would take for granted.  How easy it is to focus on the wrong things, to find criticism first or not see the full picture and yet how powerful when we touch a heart by seeing the fulness of who they are.

As a mum, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the dread of parent’s evening,.  But just as I did as we walked down the dust road, we walk across the concrete play area and I tell my child how proud I am of them.   Each time I say it I see the fullness of their journey and it means just that bit more.  How grateful I am for a God who sits by me and listens as others declare things about me, who stands for me, who sees my mistakes and failures but also sings over me with delight.

(just to add we did also have an amazing teacher at the same school for my other son and both of them learnt well at the school – in the fullest sense).

Simple Blessings and Value

Simple Blessings and Value

Love this blog, today it was so exact… what do we say are our blessings or where are our blessings?

The problem with blessings in things is when they are gone we aren’t blessed or we don’t see other people being of the same value because they don’t have the blessings we have.  I know that is NOT TRUE!

I have friends who do bless me so much, whenever I get to spend time with them I come away encouraged, realising my value, realising how great God is.  Why?  Their house is simple, the mum is an amputee and the dad significantly disabled.  The dad tries to work fixing TV’s but he doesn’t have all the equipment, so he takes the TV’s to a shop to check them, but their car is so wrecked it is illegal to drive.  They don’t have money for holidays, they don’t have a savings account, they don’t have laptops or ipads, they were just able to buy beds for the girls who had been sleeping on the floor…  do you know what? When I go to their house I never see what they don’t have.  They have such an incredible life, happiness, peace, joy…. God flows out of them, touches everyone they meet.  They give, they live they trust and enjoy and are BLESSED!

Yesterday with the kids at Burime (we live in an illegal settlement built literally on swamp land) I asked what would make their life better, the answers…

a diamond

a house

health

family

Yes things, a diamond and a house, but the house is what most of us take forgranted, a basic.  With these they would feel blessed… they could have said anything but this was their answer.  Blessing is not in things, blessing is in the heart, seeing God in everything, in everyone.  Appreciating the basics of life, breath, being.  Knowing hope in the middle of a swamp, having faith in the worst prognosis, finding provision in the bottom of the flour sack.  My life has been blessed and I am definetly not against having things, having nice things, having good things and do believe God gives us and loves to give us these.  But they are not where my blessing is this morning, drink you coffee, have a think.  How blessed are you today?

Has Anyone Thanked You?

Yesterday we needed to go to a supermarket.  So we went to one in a very small shopping mall.  It is in Durres but in the five years we have lived here we have never looked around it.  As we did Matilda discovered a small soft play area.  Of course came the question… Can I play?  To be honest it looked rather dirty, scruffy, dimly lit.  There was a man there with apparently his two young children a girl and a boy.  No one else.  She ran ahead not waiting for the answer.  She began to run up the slide and over the soft play area, bundling down into the ball pool, giggling and laughing.  The other little girl said something to her but Matilda did not respond.  Her dad tried to explain to her… she is English, she doesn’t speak Albanian, she speaks English.  I corrected him, “Yes, she is English but she speaks Albanian and English.” The dad was surprised and told the girl to carry on, this time with Matildas attention they began to chat, play and interact.  The dad asked where we were from and what we were doing here.  We explained about Burime, that we run a centre for children and teens on the Keneta.  “Has anyone ever thanked you?” he asked.

Now that was not a question I was expecting or fell into the normal run of questions and so I was taken aback for a moment.  Then I thought.  I didn’t really know how to respond.  In fact each morning at the end of the session the children want a hug before they go, no longer satisfied with just saying goodbye or shaking a hand, now one by one I have to hug them.  They line up waiting.  Almost every week at least one child will write a note or make a card to say how much they like Burime, what a difference it makes to them.  The teenagers come along, eyes sparkling, sometimes with mischief, but mainly with a sense of enjoyment.  We get twitters and sometimes emails telling us people are behind us, love what we do.  But thanks? Has anyone thanked you?

Not so often.  Was my reply and straight away he said “Well I am thanking you, thank you for coming here.”  That was nice.  It meant something.  But actually I don’t know it meant more than a hug, more than a note, more than a tweet or a prayer.  The word thanks is great to hear and goodness do I encourage my children to use it more.  But actually as I thought about it, thanks doesn’t feel necessary.  We aren’t doing something that requires thanks, that suggests a recognition of something noteworthy.  We are just being us, we are having an amazing time, having incredible experiences and learning so much. 

Thanks goes to those people who are slogging away to make this possible.  The little girls who make cakes to sell at church to raise money for some crafts.  The generous couple who paid for three weeks of summer activities.  The people facing unemployment who still give ten pounds.  The person who asks not for presents but gives their birthday money to pay for the rent on the centre.  The teen who gives up their Saturday wages to make a difference.  The family who say I can’t give any more because I am sponsoring a child.  The couple that read a newsletter and give money because they understand.  The church that takes an offering and raises the money for kids to go to camp.  Every single person who has given from 2p to thousands to change lives they may never even meet.  Thats where the thanks goes.  To all you heroes who are even reading this because you care enough. 

Thank you.Image