I want you to think about this Chesterton quote for a moment. Seriously. Reflect on your own lives and challenges, and tell me whether it matches your experience.
We are to begin classes on Monday (“Yea! Finally!” – Rory) and we are confronted with something definitely worth doing, but which will, in all likelihood, be done “badly”. Though Rory has a much more straightforward and rousingly positive affirmation to Chesterton’s insight, it remains a naggingly open question for me. Isn’t there a theoretical point where prudence kicks in and one backs off because of the mounting obstacles? I’m not suggesting that we have reached that point, but our realities are certainly sobering.
We have been charged with the task of creating and presenting five semesters of English language curriculum over the next school year. Because English is a required subject, we will have nearly every student in the school in our classes. Not only have neither of us taught Timorese students before, but neither of us has taught English as a foreign language per se (read: first year teachers with that built-in learning curve.) There is no ready-made curriculum for us to use, no textbook starting point; we are to create our own materials (read: lots of work, with another steep, built-in learning curve.)
As if these were not daunting enough, the context for these challenges is a strikingly different educational culture that we are struggling to come to terms with. Not only are our Timorese students coping with 25-32 credits per semester (8-11 subjects), but these include three languages: English, Portuguese, and written Tetum. A shocker we just learned when we got our schedule is that the three hours of instruction per week are done as a block of three hours in a single day. We had expected three separate class meetings each week. (Side note: we are not being singled out in this; this is the way that every subject is treated.) Another cultural difference we just found out about is that teachers do not have their own rooms. Instead, the students stay put, and teachers do the room-changing. Speaking from my own experiences of technological mayhem and forgetfulness, this introduces another layer of preparation that is difficult to consistently manage successfully.
I could mention other issues, too:
- our inability to speak Tetum or Indonesian
- larger than optimal class sizes
- lack of physical resources like photocopiers and printers and projectors (and electricity)
- the lack of fans or air conditioning to cope with the heat
The cumulative weight of all of these factors can definitely add up.
Actually, you will be glad to know that there is some good news. Our morale is surprisingly upbeat and our adjustment to life in Timor continues to extend and deepen. We are convinced that this is due to the many prayers offered on our behalf and the Lord’s grace-full response. And though there remains much to be done (“Why are you wasting valuable time with a post right now?”), we are feeling reasonably prepared for our first meetings with our students.
So even though my resonance with this example of GKC’s penetrating wit is less than resounding, Rory reminds me that if you stipulate perfection or nothing, the result will be nothing… every time. So we do what we can and intentionally entrust the challenges, the myriad of details, the conjured apprehensions and fears – and the outcome – to the Lord. [posted by David]