Success Amongst Six

Erin Lang - Senegal


March 18, 2011

Around ten this morning, I arrived at the elementary after having a meeting with the principal at the high school.  I found the school to be rather empty, as normal, due to the teachers still not having received their salaries.  But despite the fact that classes were not in session, I found my group of my favorite and most loyal students waiting for me in front of the library.  This group of students is all girls, from Madame Kane’s second grade class, and they are the joy of my work life.  There are six of them: Aby, Diarra, Bineta, Ndeye, Mariama, and Aida.  These girls have become more like sisters to me…they are often times what make me look forwards to going to work.  All of my classes with them are fun and relaxed.  They listen to me and know that I also respect them for the effort that they put into my classes.  At the beginning, the majority of them could not read, but now, thanks to their constant effort and attendance, I am more than happy to say that the six of them are the strongest students I work with.  They even come to my house after school to ensure that they really have learned what was introduced in class that day.  In light of this, I now find myself bonding with them often outside of class.  Today, for example, we left school together and went to the boutique and bought cookies, soft drinks, and friendships bracelets, and then went for a walk before returning home.  The girls giggle and chatter the whole time we are together, asking all kinds of questions and telling me all about their lives.  I wish everyone could know these girls better.  They are so bright and have such beautiful minds and hearts.  Their stories are sincerely touching.  I honestly could not imagine my life here without these six girls.  I am going to share with you now, a little bit about each one of these girls, in hope that you too, may see why these girls are so special in my life and my experience here.

Let’s start with Ndeye.  A little while ago, you may recall me writing a blog about Ndeye, and how I was in the process of battling her bad habits and behavior in class.  Who would have ever thought that this girl would end up in this blog, about my favorite and most prided students?  Well let me just say that out of all of my girls, Ndeye is the one who has come the furthest.  I do not just mean academically, but personally.  She has really learned to use her gifts and talents to better others.  I have not seen her fight recently for any reason other than to help someone else.  And when she does fight for someone, I always find her consulting the angry child on how it is not right to hurt someone else to better oneself.  Talk about a 360 turn.  Even her teacher is sincerely satisfied with her progress.  This child has real potential to go somewhere with her life.  I am so proud of her.

Then we have Miss Aby Faye, my tall, scrawny, little chatterbox.  When I first started working with Aby, her teacher said that her success was unlikely, because her parents were very religious people, and to them, Aby’s presence at the Islamic School was much more important than the public school in French.  Her attendance was noted Rare if ever, and her scores were not satisfactory.   Luckily for me, Aby happens to be my next door neighbor.  After talking with her parents, and explaining that religious school is good, but public school is also important, I convinced them to at least let Aby come to night classes and make up what was missed with me after school at my house, if necessary.  Now, every evening at seven, I receive a knock on my door, and go to work with my little, talkative Aby Faye in reading lessons.  She is now reading fluently, and on top of that, she is speaking wonderful French.  She makes me smile every day.  She has become so enthusiastic about learning that she never stops talking or asking questions.  I really can’t complain.

Mariama Dione is a fascinating child.  She has a glorious reputation for her rebellious attitude and frequent back talk.  I get her better than others though, because I was similar as a child… it’s a phase that is going to pass in time.  She’s really funny though, despite her occasional disrespect, and is quite intelligent. Her effort is so admirable.  You can tell she is really trying when she gets the wrinkled brow and frown on her face as she hesitates between syllables.  It’s adorable. Her parents don’t support her being in school, especially her mother, who frequently comes to my classroom door to make sure that Mariama is learning and not playing, in hopes that she can get her to come home.  Her mother says that her work at the house is much more important than the work at school, and no time should be wasted.  I have recently been assuring her that her schedule is my schedule, and that my work will not interfere with her work.  That way, if Mariama needs to be at home, she can be.  I really don’t mind the absences as long as they don’t interfere in the long run, and we can make them up after class.  Slowly but surely, her mother is becoming much more acceptant of the idea of Mariama’s schooling, and in the process, her daughter is becoming an academic all-star.

Aida Sow is all of three feet tall, at the most.  She is indeed the most unique and independent little thing I have ever met in my life.  Aida is quite the social butterfly.  She loves to play any hand clap or jump rope game that you can imagine, and often is late to class because of her large passion for these activities.  When she walks into class late, she always tries to tell me that she was helping her mother, or had to eat a late lunch, but quickly realizes that I have been watching her play in the school courtyard the whole time.  She giggles after the realization and quickly gets seated, yet the excuse never ceases to be repeated.  I can’t help but laugh every time.  I adore her.  We recently did skits for vocabulary purposes about Santa Clause, with whom the kids are infatuated.  Aida was Rudolf in the skit, so we taped a little red nose and cardstock antlers on to make it official.  She laughed the whole time.  She has such a joyful take on life. Whenever I call her up to the board, she slinks back into her chair in nervousness.  Once she is finally up front, she begins to read with a rhythm behind it.  Every time she makes a mistake, she covers her mouth with her hand and says Oops… and looks at me waiting for me to correct her or get angry that she messed up.  My reaction is always the same: Miss Aida Sow!  Continue your sentence, please! She smiles every time, and continues on where she left off.

The last two girls go hand in hand:  Bineta Diop and Giarra Ndiaye.  These two are inseparable.  They might as well be twins.  They come into class together, always ontime, share the same snack, wear the same colors, do all class activities together, and are by far my strongest readers.  Bineta and Giarra have always been ahead of the class, but continue to progress every day.  They speak better French than any of my students, due to their advanced reading level, and have a huge passion to learn.  Bineta and Giarra are always staying after class to help me clean up, learn more about the lesson done in class, or just chat in general.  Whenever I step out of class to run an errand or talk to another teacher, I always come back and find Giarra and/or Bineta at the board, leading my class in my absence.  Often, I let them continue.  I love to watch them work.  It’s amazing what strong leaders second graders can be.  I am always renewed and inspired in the presence of these young girls.

Having students like these girls is such a gift, because there comes a point where they stop being just another group of students you have to teach and start being the people that you respect and admire the most.  That really is how I see them, too.  I wonder sometimes, if I was in some of their home situations, if I would have the courage to fight a battle just to stay in school, let alone to study and put in effort in to succeed.  And that is exactly what these six are doing, succeeding.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Erin Lang