Monday, October 19, 2015

Who's who in the after school

For a while now I’ve wanted to start something new on our blog. I want to write about each of my students in the after school program in Apalina so that you will get to know them better. I hope that through this, you will feel even more a part of what’s going on here in Romania.

First up is my most faithful student, Daniel. He is in the eighth grade, and until this year hasn’t come regularly to our after school. I knew him, of course, but I honestly thought he would be one to just drop out once the year really started. I was wrong! He has only missed one day since the start of school this year. Just as a reminder, the group I work with is students who have the hardest time with reading, writing, and basic math. It may be surprising to think that there are students in the eighth grade who struggle with this, but Daniel is not the only one. From the beginning, he was already one of the stronger readers in the group, but that said, he still struggled. He knows the alphabet, but he doesn’t know how to use what he knows to help him read. Since the start of the year, he has improved to the point where he is now helping me teach other students in the class. Sometimes I have to tell him not to answer because he is so much faster than the other students now. He has made great improvements, and mainly because he wanted to. That is one of the biggest battles here. Many of the children have decided (either because they were told or because of many failures) that they cannot be successful no matter how hard they try. With Daniel, that is being proven wrong!

Someone recently mentioned to me that it must be so hard to do what I’m doing. My response was that it is hard, but the rewards are great. When I see a student like Daniel achieve success after success, it makes it all worth it!

Stay tuned for more updates about the students in my class and for a picture of Daniel.

- Paul

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Very Special Visitors

Paul and I had the privilege of hosting my parents here in Romania last week!  They came all the way from Texas, USA to be with us and to see the world in which we live.  We had a fantastic visit, and Paul and I treasured every moment we got to spend with my parents!  My dad, a budding amateur photographer, took so many great pictures of Reghin, Targu-Mures, Sighisoara, and places in between, and we're happy to have some great photo memories to share with all of you!

My parents out at dinner at our favorite restaurant in Ernei

The town hall and cultural palace in Targu-Mures

Medieval town of Sighisoara

Birthplace of Vlad Dracul ("Dracula") in Sighisoara

Outside Reghin church on Sunday morning

Our little church in Reghin

Reghin Mayor's office and central city park

English poster up in the center of town!

Our church in Apalina

English classes in Gornesti and Reghin are going well!  We have about 10 students in Reghin, and a whopping 20-25 in Gornesti!  As always, it's been great getting to know some new faces in the community as well as to get to spend some more time with church members who are also coming to the classes.  We've even got several children joining us!  Here's a quick photo I snagged last night in Reghin:

Thank you again to my parents for being a big blessing to us on their visit!  And thank you to all of you for following along with us on this blog and in prayer.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Once a teacher...

...always a teacher.

I think this is definitely true of me. Katie once asked me if I could start over and choose any career, what would I choose. I didn't even really have to think about it, telling her that I would still choose teaching. I have found that excitement again this year. I'm working with a group of children in grades 5-8. I have about 9 who are faithful to come each day, but there are 24 names on my list. These children are all struggling with learning to read and write. There are some who know how to write their name, and others who do not. Many of them actually struggle with letter and number recognition. It has been an interesting task deciding what exactly I can do with them in two hours each day.

We started off the year learning the alphabet. We still have a ways to go with this, but they are making progress. I've had them practicing writing their names and other important words to them. I wrote some very easy, predictive text books with good picture support to help them gain confidence in their reading abilities. I also looked up a list of high-frequency words in English and translated this to use as the list of high frequency words for our classroom. Last week we had our first ten words, and by the end of the week, they were able to recall what the words were without the help of sounding out the individual letter.

On that note, here's a interesting fact about Romanian. It's a phonetic language. This means that what you see is what you say...always.* Oh, that English were more like that! I can't imagine how much easier it would have been to teach children in the States to read if English were more phonetic.

Besides all of these words, I've also been teaching some basic math skills. These children are so far behind that even single-digit addition and subtraction are too difficult for them. We've been working on visual strategies to help them gain an understanding of the concepts of addition and subtraction. They are getting better and better each day.

Most of these kids have had few successes in school. They have been told by their teachers and their peers that they "can't" or "don't know how to" read, write, or do anything in school. One of the boys told me this week that he had never read before. Another boy, after reading one of the predictive books, proudly announced, "I did it!" It's my hope that they will continue to have these feelings of success.


*I guess saying "always" is setting myself up for all sorts of people telling me that there are exceptions. My reply to this is that there are far more exceptions in English! :)