Friday (Day 5) we got to help the BEE Montessori Preschool children paint t-shirts. They came out six at a time, and watching their curiosity as to what was going on turn to an intense concentration on the task at hand was very heart warming. Several children tried to put their smocks on like jackets, with the open part in the front. And while it was nice to know they knew how to put on a jacket, we had put them through a confusing experience of wearing a smock so they wouldn’t get paint on their clothes. One little boy I helped chose the monkey stamp, and his precision in choosing colors, making sure the paint didn’t drip off of the brush, the way he’d pause after every stroke to look at his work, and his determination to paint every corner of the stamp made him seem like quite the little artist. The children’s attentiveness as I carried their stamp over to the blank white t-shirts made me smile; as I crouched down to push the stamp on the fabric, they’d copy me, wanting to watch my every move as I finalized their creation on a t-shirt they’d get to keep.
After lunch, our group of five got to play a type of African drum, which had goatskin stretched over either end of a metal barrel. Our friend Eddie taught us a fun rhythm, and I finally got to get my hands on a drum again since I graduated high school.
Afterwards, we returned to BEE Montessori Preschool and grabbed any of the shirts that had dried from the morning. Unfortunately, the power had gone out in the school, so no fans for us. But we were all too concentrated on printing the children’s names on the backs of their shirts to notice the heat. While we were missing a couple letters out of the alphabet, some improvisation with the letters “i” and “c” came in handy for finishing several names.
After some intense hand scrubbing to get all the paint off, I went and sat with the Students Empowering Students’ members, a group of Secondary and College students ranging from 14 to 22 years old, all studying English. The fact that so many of them showed up to study and read with one another on a Friday evening was really impressive. And listening to them summarize what they had read in Black Beauty, in English, was equally, if not more impressive. When fellow traveler Gina spoke up about her career as a Spanish teacher, one student told her they were all really interested in learning Spanish and wondered if she might teach them something. Gina looked thrilled, to say the least. She began with a song that showed how to conduct a simple “hello, how are you, I’m fine, thanks” conversation in Spanish, which was really quite similar to what the BEE students recited in their classes, only in English, not Spanish. Gina then went around the circle of students asking each of them “como te llamas?” And each and every student energetically answered with “me llamo/a...” and their name. Getting to witness different types of education, whether on the fly, with preparation, or with only a guiding hand, being at BEE gave me a refreshing view of school in general; it can, should, and hopefully is a place full of love and respect, joy and gratitude, and a place where the love of learning blossoms in all minds.