Expecting the Unexpected
I was constantly reminded of the inherent goodness in humanity.
I went on my first trip to El Progreso, Honduras with SHH during winter break of my freshman year at Towson University. After what I thought would just be a one week volunteer trip, I was hooked. I booked my return flight as soon as possible to return for another week that summer. Fast forward a few years and I now had a degree in K-8 Special Education and 7 trips to Honduras, including teaching Summer School at VSBS, under my belt. I knew, as did my parents, that as soon as applications to teach at VSBS were live for the 2017-2018 school year, I would be applying. My passion for education is evident, almost as evident as my passion for the work SHH does in Honduras. To me, there was no other opportunity that perfectly combined the things I cared about most.
To be honest, I don’t know what many of my expectations were going into the year but there were few things that I did know. I knew I loved being in Honduras and I knew I loved working with SHH. I loved learning about the culture, the people I worked alongside, and the families and children I had grown to know over the years. I knew I loved teaching and stretching my levels of comfortability to its limits. I expected to be met with challenges that ultimately led to rewards and I expected spotty wifi and refreshingly cold showers. I expected more and stronger relationships with new and already familiar faces. I expected to understand more; about where I was and why I was doing what I was doing.
I didn’t expect that the teacher house would so quickly turn into a home. That the city surrounding us felt equally bustling as it did monotonous at all hours of the day. That I would spend weekends contently laying in the hammocks on our back porch followed by adventures climbing mountains, crawling through waterfalls, touring ancient ruins and snorkeling in crystal waters. There was never a shortage of friendly conversation (in my vastly improved Spanish), street food or air-conditioned coffee shops. I have witnessed hospitality and generosity from Hondurans before, but my neighbors, staff members, student’s parents and strangers were overflowing with it, in all its forms. I didn’t expect the free rides, beautiful and supportive messages, gifts, things as simple as an extra piece of pina on the street or coconut water after a run. I was constantly being reminded of the inherent goodness within humanity.
While I would never say that the year was easy, or that all things went as planned, these moments of beauty made it seemingly that way.
To my surprise after a few short weeks, I had to leave my resource position and take over the 3rd grade classroom. My feelings and thoughts and any predetermined expectations were now really in question. I did not see it in that moment, but, this was easily the best thing that could have happened to me.
I started every morning with a cup of coffee, a sweaty bus ride, the smiles and overly sugary breakfasts of roughly, 25, 3rd graders. We played games, we danced, and we laughed. (Sometimes probably too much.) We loved working on the floor and working outside. Working without our shoes on and to music. We challenged ourselves through STEM projects, even having the SHH Masons drop our egg structures from the top of the scaffolding (and them successfully not breaking!!!). We planned, built and presented real life inventions in our Invention Convention, where parents overwhelmingly came to support. We played multiplication basketball until we could *almost* reach the hoop. We showcased our abilities by reading to Kinder each Friday. We became archeologists, astronomers and police officers on our field trip to Museo de el Nino. We read independently, we read in small groups and as a class, we finished the whole series of Zapato Power! Talk about surpassing any expectation.
Working at VSBS is entirely a team effort. When all members of this team are striving to reach the same goal, in this case, educating the children in hopes of a successful future, it becomes a reality. I’d like to think I have experienced what life is like in Honduras but truthfully there are parts of it because of who I am and where I am from, that I will never fully experience. Seeing the value and impact that a bilingual education can have on these students through the pride in the eyes of their parents, family members and Spanish teachers is the most inspiring. My students and I would not have been successful without the leadership and guidance from the incredible Honduran staff or without parental and family support. These aspects make VSBS into the environment that it is, and that environment is truly one of a kind. One that I consider myself the most fortunate to have been a part of.
Miss Mallory taught 4th grade at the Villa Soleada Bilingual School during the 2017-2018 school year. She graduated from the University of Towson ’17 majoring in Special Education.