Small steps

I wrote my last post about our new ministry at the orphanage nearby just minutes before leaving for my first class teaching English there. I knew nothing of these children and wished I had hindsight right then and there. Well, now I have some hindsight and several stories under my belt.

Here’s a recap:
week 1: Girls (12 – 14) with attitudes, but workable, I think.
week 2: Girls with attitudes get worse when rebel Andrei is added to the mix. This arrangement is smoothing out slowly.
week 3: I really do not want to go, but don’t want to be a quitter either. These kids already have had people quit on them. I pray. I go. . . and I come home smiling. At last some small breakthroughs in my relationships with the girls in particular. New boy Igor is sweet and receptive to homework help.
week 4: Another good lesson, and I feel hopeful.

Now for a snapshot of Masha, one of my “attitude girls”.

Masha is 12 going on 30: angry, grumpy, and disrespectful. She peers out from under her hair at me each class and tests me by saying rude things and making it clear that “English is boring” and “I don’t want to be here.” Yet, she reported to the administrator that she liked the first class. My 2nd lesson did not entertain Masha as hoped, and she tried to make life difficult. Week 3 I knew it was “make or break” time. I brought place settings, candles, and napkins to practice vocabulary and prepositions (Put your fork in your cup. Put your cup on your plate.) This approach was more to Masha’s liking, and the atmosphere of our relationship improved. Some notes to self: hold Masha’s gaze, smile, speak firmly, smile, wink on occasion, laugh a lot, and she might just show her sly grin.

Week 4 was special. Not 15 minutes in our preposition game (Put the blocks in your cup. Put the green block under the cup. Put the white and blue block beside the cup.) One of the administrators and a dear woman, entered the room with a prim looking lady (PLL), the English teacher at the orphanage school. We are introduced, but PLL does not bother to speak English to me, just Russian. Anyhow, the kids and I waited to continue our game while PLL complained and scolded Masha and the director for Masha’s poor performance in English. Imagine getting reamed by a teacher in front of your peers for several minutes? No doubt some of you have. Shame-based learning prevails in Russia, and Masha was today’s prime target. I decided to stay after class to help Masha with her homework.

Masha slumped in her chair and sulked during the tirade. I caught her eye a few times and winked at her. She smiled. Aha! An ally! After class, Masha and I sit alone together, while Lydia plays BINGO with 9- year-old Farida. This time was golden. I encouraged. I taught. I patted her back. I smiled. I laughed. Masha responded! After all, I am her ally now and can not be scared off by her disrespect.

As I leaft 46, I spied the director in an empty room. She explained that Masha and the PLL have a history of conflict. Gee, if I got reamed out in front of my peers by PLL I might start to “conflict” too!

I am so thankful I did not quit on week 2, and I eagerly await week 5.


One thought on “Small steps

  1. Diana, reading your account makes me feel like I am there…would love to be your aide. Keep it up, and remember I am praying for that teacher’s heart of yours.’Love you all,Tammy

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