When I was in the classroom as a student, I focused on following the guidelines of the teacher, who I saw as my guide and source of knowledge. This experience helped create my ideas about what it is to be a teacher and about what teaching means, and I brought those ideas with me when I became a volunteer in one of the countries of the 10-40 window.
My career was not teaching, but God in his unfathomable wisdom led me to be a teacher of an English-speaking preschool, teaching in English, which is not my mother tongue nor that of my students and community. The culture is also very different from mine, both in practice and in world view. All this represented a challenge, but I found that my biggest challenge was recognizing that my idea of a teacher as a source of wisdom, would not allow me to reach them.
Because of the cultural differences, I could not arrive and just give them guidelines, but instead had to show the blessings that they could receive and leave the door open for them to choose. I came to understand that I was there to share all the good that I had acquired from the knowledge that I am teaching and from my values.
Those first two years helped me to understand the reasoning behind many actions and perspectives that challenged my theories and my culture, which allowed me to be more effective in sharing with my students. In a country where you cannot open the Bible or mention Jesus openly, especially in educational centers, I realized that we have to share based on personal experience. My role was to show them the greatest blessings that this could represent in their context, not in mine.
Subsequently, the Lord, led me to another call where I could apply my passion for public health, working in a high school as head of the cafeteria. Now the challenge was to connect with the lifestyle of the students, to address the nutritional habits that limit their academic performance and can affect their future life both physically and spiritually.
Many needs came to light, and as we attempted to reach those needs, we once again faced cultural differences, habits shared from generation to generation. And again, I remembered that I came to share and that I had to learn and respect their culture. I needed to find opportunities that would open the door for me to reach their heart and form the bonds that would help make what they learn about nutrition from us stay with them when they face life outside. My goal, like the goal of all teachers, is to make them not only hearers but doers and facilitators of the same blessings that I share with them. By respecting our students’ cultures and coming from a perspective of sharing with them rather than from a perspective of being above them, we can make a far greater impact on their lives for the good.