For 6 months, 647 hours, I lived the name “Teacher Susan.”
“And it perhaps changed how my whole life works out or will ever work out.”
There are days I felt like quitting; and those days were many. Teaching was tough, the number of books waiting to be marked’ overwhelming; and the whole routine annoying. There are days that the mornings got chilly. On those days, I hit snooze my alarm 10 times- I got to school at 11 AM. There are days, the sky always stood grey and ugly like black mist.
There are days when I walked into class 5 for Math and they knew there would be no welcome from teacher Susan; until after reciting the multiplication tables from 1-12. After those days, the exams would be administered and my class would have a mean score of 28.37% because all we did for the month was sing tables. But I felt at peace that no student scored a 0.
There are days that Grace and I decided to be the dreams of those children- the dreams they did not dream. On those days, we wrote random emails to KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) asking for a free trip for the children to Nairobi National Park. We wrote to Kenya Airways asking for a visit to the airport. We walked to Panari Hotel and asked for a one day decent meal for those children. Those days we emailed Sauti-Sol and asked them to come sing “Soma Kijana” for the children. On those days, we prayed and built hope like a pack of cards. And not on any day did we ever give up.
No reply came.
Then there came days I woke my mum at 5a.m to read out the children’s’ scores as I entered them in my laptop. Those days she would sigh, maybe too many times, asking if I was sure I had converted the figures into a percentage.
Then there are days I felt alive. Life ran through my veins. On those days I would play with the children all day. On those days I felt probably 10. At 10 years, nothing worries you. No one has convinced you that you can’t sing or that your voice is adenoidal. So you sing your lungs out and you close your eyes to the flow of music which hardly makes sense. At 10, you dance like you have no bones. At 10, you play and know that dirt is good.
There are days when I read class 7 compositions and I’d be enamored by the growth in the simple sentence structures. That the sentences no longer read, “Teacher not walk out of class sad” but “The teacher walked into the classroom looking blissful.” Those days were good days, because I got an A from one of those children.
Then there are days we stopped being klutzy. We no longer wore jeans and tights, not even on our free Saturdays. We were to be role models for these children anywhere they found us. We bought food from the slums at lunch time and we feasted well and I added weight, so all my pairs of jeans stopped fitting.
On these days, we stopped listening to the sad slum stories and actually went for lunch at the children’ homes. We spent all our evenings listening to problems, to rape cases, to family break up stories, to lost hopes and no futures. Those days we cried and got mad at life but on these same days, we went home happily broke after we bought all our classes candy and assured them there is hope. Those days Grace started a movement and we always went home playing games. Some were funny but most made us feel stupid. But feeling stupid was fun.
Yet in all these days there was something to hope for. There was always a deep longing to put a smile on a child’s face.