Some things are worth more than I thought.
It was my third week in Lublin, Poland, when I finally left again to another town. This time it was Kazimierz Dolny, the town on the eastern bank of Vistula River. I planned to use the same material I’ve been using since in Lublin, I had made some improvements based on my last session’s evaluations. Everything was perfect and well prepared.
Except, I was mistaken.
The last child had placed a picture of rhinoceros on a flat map of Indonesia. There you go, it officially ended the lesson of animal categorizing of The Biggest Archipelago Country. While the children were fascinated by the map–perhaps wondering why animals of the same country should be put into different boxes, I looked at the clock tensely. Still, I got more than 45 minutes left and had nothing else to do. I had been doing the same thing to children in Lublin, but these children’s speed in finishing tasks totally exceeded my schedule expectation. They were chatting and jumping excitedly here and there like rabbits while making all the tasks and before I knew it, they had already reached the finish line.
I took a glance at Snow, my teaching partner, hoping that somehow it would magically sprout an idea in my frustrated mind. It didn’t work. Some children were hanging on my arms like little monkeys (the cute one, of course) and pestering me, “Miss! Play again! Play! Play!” and the others began to follow their demand by clapping the table. Riot. If only making noise could help me.
Aggravation bubbled up in my chest all at once. I’ve always been sensitive to sensory triggers and I didn’t have many experiences in interacting with children. Combined with my failed effort to focus, that could be bad news.
I took a deep breath instead.
Let’s focus on what I could do before they become wilder than this. Following the inner dialogue was my effort to reach whatever inside my paper bag. Then I grabbed out rubbers that knotted in such a way until it becomes a rope. I totally forgot I’ve got this thing. I can use this!
Rope Jumping is a traditional game in Indonesia. Two people have to hold each end of the rope and adjust its height from the lowest and gradually becoming higher, while the others have to jump over it without touching it. The person who fails to do so has to replace the holder until someone else is failed. If the rope reaches the height above the player’s shoulders, it’s not rare to see them doing a sideways spin move. This game requires agility and hard work.
It didn’t take long until they began to completely indulge in the game. I watched them jumping and sometimes laughing at their friend’s failure. I taught those who seemed to have less agility how to jump correctly so they won’t fail so often.
The time was already over but they wouldn’t stop playing until their parents came over. Then they one by one began putting on their shoes and hugged me before rushing toward their parents, “Thank you very much, miss!”
There was only one person left in the waiting room. I took a peek inside to see who was left in the classroom. Someone was playing rope skipping alone. There was no one else to hold the rope for her.
“Ita. Your grandpa is here.” She turned toward me when I called her name. Rather than excited, she looked disappointed. “I want to play,” She murmured. But she still gave it back to me then put on her shoes.
“If you like it, you can take it with you.” I wasn’t sure if she understood my words, but my intention must have been clear when I gave the rope back to her. Her smile was slowly rising while I wasn’t fast enough stopping myself from getting struck. She hugged me tightly. “Thank you!”, she spoke out loud and then rushed toward her grandfather. She kept waving to me until they walked far enough. I smiled faintly to the last glimpse of her back in the corner of the road before closing the door.
So, after pushing me vexatiously, all my effort was only getting paid by a smile. Yet, I felt fulfilled. That was unfair.
…Or perhaps their merriment is that worthwhile.
*originally created in 2013