Friday, March 21, 2014

The Scary Sink - with an addendum...

There is a sink in the room where I teach here in Musomaland. It’s actually quite helpful, as any kindergarten teacher will you tell you, because much of what we do at this age creates/brings about/fundamentally requires messes to be made. A cut and paste activity, for instance – ever important for developing fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination – will leave a sticky residue not only all over little fingers (and shirts, and faces… did I mention hair?) but also desks. What could be better than having a sink IN THE CLASSROOM that you can send students to at any time to wash up at, while still being able to keep them in your line of sight in case they start to dilly-dally, sing a song, or wander off along the way?

So on the one hand, I’m very thankful for this device that pipes water into our classroom – indoor plumbing in Musoma is definitely not a given! On the other hand, the sink in our classroom has some digestive issues. Not only does the water often come out looking brown or yellow (we just say “eww,” wait for it to hopefully clear up, and don’t ask!), but oftentimes the very presence of water is missing when the tap is turned on. This creates not only potentially big issues, like flooded houses when people are out-of-country and sink faucets are left in the “on” position… but also smaller issues, like air in the pipes that cause sporadic squirting of brown-colored liquid water. And for little ones whose faces are just the same height as the faucet, water squirting out as air is pushed through pipes is a pretty scary thing indeed. (The sound and suddenness is enough to make anyone jump, let alone the fact I’d rather not have said water going into their eyes or mouth!)

My students and I have adjusted, as life here often requires and we always manage to do. The students much prefer to use my container of hand sanitizer, but since such luxuries (like wet wipes) can’t be purchased in Musoma and are quite expensive in Nairobi, I’d actually much prefer they go through the old soap-and-water method of washing! I often try to “check” the sink ahead of time to make sure that the water is flowing properly. However, lately, with even more frequent digestive water issues, that hasn’t helped much either. Inevitably I’ll declare the sink a safe place for hand sanitation and then a little person will turn on the faucet only to have disgusting bits of water shooting at them while making loud squirting noises. The small face inevitably turns to me in a scene of heart-touching anxiety/panic/fear/tears, and I tell them I’ll get them hand sanitizer for them in just a minute.

Lately, I’ve started putting a bottle of water with a squirt top by the sink for hand washing. We've always used this for washing desks and when the water is out, but it also seems to work well for hand-washing-safety. I can fill it up myself and then students can wash their hands without fear… except they're still at the age where they need someone to hold the water for them, which I often can’t do in the middle of teaching.

So the quest for a viable solution continues. In the meantime, though, I loved what one of my students mentioned today as I stood in front of a noisily squirting sink of gross water and filled up the water bottle for future washing use.

“Miss Crystal, how can you be so brave!?”

She was totally serious, completely sincere in her admiration. For her, this sink represented something that at any moment could cause tears, frustration, anxiety, unpleasant feelings as she goes about her daily routine. And here I was, standing in front of the obviously still-problematic structure, acting like nothing was wrong (though, I must admit, I was inwardly bracing myself against jumping when it made loud noises!). As an adult, someone who is bigger and has dealt with my own experiences of jumping at air in faucet lines and overcome them… I see things from a different angle (literally - It helps to be taller than the sink!) and perspective. I can see the problem and deal with it and be able to make it through for the greater good of what my students need.

Oftentimes lately, I've felt like turning to God and saying much the same thing. "God, do you really expect me to be this brave or strong?" Because the truth is, I'm not brave. I see mounting obstacles ahead and shrink back in fear. I’d much rather avoid an issue or area that seems scary, or will worry about it and look around tearfully for someone to help but wonder if they’re too busy to ask. Thankfully, unlike most busy teachers in the classroom, God is apparently NEVER too busy to lend a listening ear and hand and come over and hold the non-scary water bottle spout for me while I wash my hands.

I've got the verses above on my desktop and phone, not because of the pretty designs, but because apparently I need constant reminders that God is way bigger - and braver - than I am... and that He doesn't tell me I have to manage on my own.  And while sometimes it seems silly to go to God with things I know really shouldn't be a big deal, I'm still ever-thankful for a pretty amazing God who's apparently willing to stand in front of scary sinks that might squirt grossness at me and help me to get around the obstacles ahead, or at least go through them mostly unscathed.

(*The second verse above is a free printable from HERE... check it out! The first is my own creation after a friend sent me the much-needed verse!)

This amazing teacher has followed me in my classrooms from the States to HOPAC in Dar, to LVLC in Musoma. (We're kind of hoping she stays in Musoma as they really need her there!) She's super-creative and knows just how to solve issues like Scary Sinks with little ones. Add a super-cute, very pink monster and a speech bubble, and of course the kids will immediately bond and accept any weird noises protruding from it's belly! (Added bonus is that all the kids will now know how to spell "burp", which I'm fairly certain is an important element of literacy learning in the early years...)

No comments:

Post a Comment