(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)
I am proud to announce that I made it through the week (relatively) unscathed.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt this good in a long time. I couldn’t tell you the last time that work of any kind inspired enthusiasm rather than resignation. Normally, work is somehow both tiring and so boring that I dread returning the next day despite the pay. The fact that working from 9 am to 5 pm every day of the week has yet to drain me is shocking to me.
And the only reason I can think of for this is simple: the girls.
I don’t know what to tell you. I love them. I adore them. There is no other way to describe it.
These girls are so diverse, and yet they are all stronger, smarter, and bolder than I can ever remember being at their age. They are supportive of one another, curious about absolutely everything, and eager to express themselves however they can. I don’t think it is possible for me to be unexcited when their eyes light up when they are learning something new, or when they gain the confidence to showcase a particular skill of theirs, or when the shy girl in the back row truly becomes engaged in the classroom.
I could talk about how amazing they are for forever, but in particular, I must say this—I would be content with teaching Will Power/ Won’t Power indefinitely with Girls Inc.
Sexual Education, as I’ve said in previous blog entries, is a passion of mine. I have the knowledge, and the passion. The skill part was what I was most concerned about in this past week.
However, I don’t think things could have gone much better than they did.
I daresay that the girls in my class might have actually enjoyed my class, despite the icky bits with the diagrams and what-not. But even in the most uncomfortable of moments on their end, they handled it with far more maturity than I expected, and with genuine interest in their own biology. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Their questions were so much fun to answer, regardless of what level of understanding the girl was at.
“Why do we have sperm?”
“Does it hurt to grow a uterus?”
“That’s going on inside me?!”
They were fabulous questions.
But of course, given the nature of the course, there cannot be all fun and games.
“What happens when a baby dies?”
This was the sort of question I had been dreading. It touches on several touchy subjects, some of which I am not permitted to talk to the girls about unless they specifically ask for the information. Thus, I did the best I could, and addressed the safest of subjects surrounding this topic: miscarriage.
I had given them the basic facts, and had felt pretty good about it, when one of my most quiet, soft-spoken girls had raised her hand, and shared with me and the class something that brought me back to earth from Cloud Nine.
Her young mother had died due to a miscarriage.
I learned very quickly that there is not protocol for something like that, when it happens in your classroom. I hope that I handled it well in the classroom, but this moment has niggled at the back of my mind for the past few days, since it happened.
In that moment, I was reminded of my relatively inconsequential part of these girl’s lives.
It is nice to think that my teaching these girls was significantly impactful in comparison to one of the more experienced staff members, but of course this is lofty thinking born of a desire to Make a Difference.
I was reminded that my involvement in this program is not about me making some life-altering change in these girls’ lives—how can four weeks of my presence compare with the loss of a mother?— but about my own personal growth in compassion, patience, humility, and awareness.
That moment brought me back to that big Baldwin Auditorium on East Campus back at Duke, the ring of those words-
“It’s not about You. But it is about you.”
I knew what they meant then. But now I think I’m beginning to understand.