We are throwing it back this Thursday with a story from one of our volunteer teachers who worked at Mtendere last summer. Our Guest blogger is McCarley Jane Thomas from Nashville Tennessee. McCarley works at Nolensville High School
Day 3: Our first day to work with the teachers. We had visited most of the classrooms and met the teachers briefly on the first day, but we had not had the chance to sit down and get to know them yet.
3 o’clock came around, and one by one the teachers made their way into the classroom. We spread ourselves amongst the teachers, and began a short icebreaker.
The premise of the icebreaker was simple. A list of questions were hung on the bored. Each person answered the questions about him or herself to their partner. The partner would then have the responsibility of presenting their new friend to the rest of the group.
I wound up sitting by a high school Math teacher named Douglas. Let me tell you some things I learned about Douglas. I learned he has been teaching for 15 years, his favorite food is chicken with rice, and he has two daughters. Douglas also told me that he teaches because of the connections the profession allows him to make with his students.
After a good amount of time, we started to come back together to share with the rest of the teachers in the room. Before we left, Douglas grabbed my hand and asked me when my birthday is. I smiled and said, “July, 9th. When is yours?” His is May 5th. I made a silly comment about Cinco De Mayo before realizing the people of Malawi have no idea what that means.
We came back together and shared about our partners before continuing with our first day of training.
Fast forward with me to our second to last day of training with the teachers. I found myself sitting at a table with Douglas. It was the first time we had been at a table together since that first day of training.
We were doing an exercise that required a leader for the table. We determined who the leader was by everyone sharing their birthdays, and whoever’s was closest got to be the leader. One by one we went around the table sharing our birthdays. I was last.
I opened my mouth, but before I could say anything I heard Douglas. “Mac. July 9th!” I looked at him with a similar look to the one I gave the boy with the corn cobs earlier in the trip. I smiled and said, “Douglas, you remembered.” He smiled back, “Of course I did, Mac! You are my friend.”
I was floored. It had been nearly ten days since we had talked about the small details of our lives, and he had specifically asked me about my birthday. But he remembered, and that meant more to me than he will ever know.
I learned two very important lessons from Douglas that day: the importance of being thoughtful and intentional and the incredible impact those two things can have on the people around you.
I miss my friend Douglas along with so many others from Malawi, and I think about them often. This week I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I can’t help but think that as Saturday, July 9th rolled around, somewhere in a home in Malawi a high school Math teacher smiled to himself as he remembered his new, tall, English teaching, American friend. I know one thing for sure: when May 5th comes back around, I will be doing the same thing.