|Grace and Miss Finocchi|
My girl started fifth grade this week. Fifth grade isn't usually one of those landmark years, but for me, it is pretty significant.
Fifteen years ago, I came to Haven of Peace Academy to teach fifth grade. It was 2001, and I walked into that same classroom. I was 24 years old. HOPAC was only six years old, and that classroom had just been built. Cement dust was still all over the floor and not a single bulletin board was on the newly painted walls.
I was fighting my own internal battles as I prepared for that school year, many days barely coping. But that class walked in on that first day, and we fell instantly in love. After teaching in California, I was relieved to have a class that was not jaded by a culture that made them grow up too fast. That classroom was my haven, and that class fed my soul.
When Narnia was being born, you could stick a hunk of metal in the ground and it would grow a lamppost. Those days at HOPAC were the same. The school was young and everything was new and we got the privilege of creating culture and tradition. Some of the things my class did that year are still happening today, like Roman Day and the annual trip to the Amani rainforest.
I spent two years with that class, teaching them sixth grade as well as fifth, and many of those students have been a part of my life ever since. Now fifteen years have gone by.
I watched them graduate from high school and I have celebrated their graduation from college. They are now the age I was when I taught them. They are my friends, and I think they teach me more than I taught them. Many of them have returned to Tanzania to change their world. In fact, Dorothy (center) leaves tomorrow to get her Masters in educational policy at Harvard, and then she'll come back and transform education in Tanzania.
So yeah. For my own girl, fifteen years later, to enter that very same fifth grade classroom? Pretty darn cool.