Wow. I only have four weeks left of my first school year in Mistissini. A lot has happened since my last update at Christmas. Let me fill you in on a few things:
I had a really nice Christmas and New Year back in Toronto with friends and family before returning to Mistissini to resume teaching on January 8th. Unlike most school boards, we don’t have March Break, instead we have ‘Goose Break’. This is a two week period in which many families go into their camps in the bush to hunt for geese. Because goose hunting season isn’t until the weather warms up, this two week break occurs later in the year than many teachers would like. This means that from January 8th to April 27th, we didn’t have any breaks, which made for a very long stretch of teaching. By the beginning of April, both students and teachers were getting restless and anxious for some time off.
To be honest, that sixteen week period was pretty draining. It was a very cold and long winter, but we all endured it together, and tried to make the best of it. I found that after Christmas, things began improving a lot more with my students. I think their trust in me slowly grew each month and so did their respect for me. I began fostering closer relationships with some of the girls, inviting two of them over at a time for dinner at my place (something that would seem strange in Toronto but is common in this culture). I really enjoyed these times, because we were able to enjoy each other’s company and bond in a way that wasn’t possible at school.
We had a three day weekend for Easter and I spontaneously decided to make the (very long) journey home to Toronto to surprise my family! Even though I knew that I’d be home four weeks later for Goose Break, I really felt like I needed the time at home. Though very short, it was incredibly refreshing for me. In total, I traveled for over 32 hours to get to Toronto and back by car, but it was well worth it! Four weeks later, I was back in Toronto for Goose Break. Those two weeks were such a nice time for me to catch up with family and friends in Toronto. The 14 days flew by but I savoured every single moment and it gave me the energy I needed for the last stretch of the school year!
Now, there are only four weeks left of the school year! I can barely believe that I’ve made it this far. There were a few times, that I really questioned if I could do it. But with a lot of prayer (thank you!) and determination, I pushed through those hard days, and am in the final stretch, as they say. I have mixed feelings to be honest. Part of me is very excited for six weeks off this summer and to be back in ‘civilization’ again. But, another part of me truly is sad. My students are heading off to ‘high school’ next year (7th grade in Quebec), so I won’t see them nearly as often. I will definitely miss them, (yes, even the ones that drove me crazy), because I invested so much into their lives.
I think when you give your all to something or someone, they become more than just a job or a duty, they become a part of your heart. I have literally given my students my blood, sweat and tears and they have grown to mean a lot to me. In all honesty, I feel as though I need a little more time. Just a few more weeks, months, years, to convince them that they are smart and beautiful and worthy. But I know that I did what I could in the time I was given with them. I did my best to show them God’s love and I will continue to pray for them as the move on to the next step in their lives. As for right now, I am committed to finishing this year well, and continuing to give them my best until the end of June when our time together comes to an end.
PS. In February, I had to make the decision of whether or not I would be returning here for the next school year. After much prayer and careful consideration, I decided that I will be coming back in August for another year. Despite its many challenges, I strongly feel that my time in Mistissini is not done yet. It took me two months to even begin to adapt to life here and then another three months to feel like I was actually becoming part of the community. I believe there is more here that God wants to do in and through me and I am excited for what is next. I am not sure what grade I will be teaching yet, it will either be 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th and I feel open to whatever adventure God has for me.
I would greatly appreciate your prayers in these last four weeks:
- That I would have the energy to finish the year well.
- That I would continue to bond with my students and show them God’s Love.
- That I would be able to find a new apartment in a good location.
Thank you again, friends! You are loved and appreciated!