Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The rain in Spain...

My new Battalion Commander has asked me to help out with a couple of community/educational outreach programs that Task Force Aviation (TF AVN) has been carrying out since their arrival in Kosovo. Both involve teaching English: we teach high-school students off-Post, and Soldiers from other NATO partner nations on-Post. It’s been a blast so far.

I love teaching. It doesn’t really matter what the subject might be (as long as I know at least a little more than the students do!), but I’ve long suspected that I’m not as comfortable with youngsters as with adults or young adults. The high-school students are highly energetic and entertaining, but spending time with them can be incredibly draining as well. There sure is an awful lot more drama with and among them than with and among our coalition partner Soldiers!

Some of these youngsters want very much to better themselves, and they come to class ready, eager, and willing to learn. Others seem to be there just to socialize with friends or because there’s nothing else to do. (Given the staggering unemployment rates here, there almost certainly isn’t much else to do!)

Irrespective of their motivation for being there, almost all these youngsters love to mug for the camera. This is especially true of the young ladies in the group, but it is not unique to them. Most of the students want their photos published on facebook, although occasionally I’ve gotten a note from one or another of these young people who have asked to have a photo removed.

The coalition Soldiers who come to class (irrespective of whether they’re Polish, Ukrainian, Turkish, or Greek) have a good time, but are definitely there to learn. One of the young men whom I’d gotten to know before I started helping out with these classes already speaks English pretty well. He’s a great resource in class because he’s able to speak Russian, which both the Ukrainians and Poles understand, and he’s able to explain to them what I’m trying to say when I’m not able to do so effectively enough.

No matter where it is I happen to be teaching, I’m loving being around other people who are making the effort to learn something new. It’s great fun to be part of that kind of activity which builds up, rather than destroys. I believe the participants in these classes have the opportunity to come away from them changed for the better – and that goes for the teachers as well as the students!

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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