It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
The last day of class of the January-April trimester, teaching first-year nursing students that I have come to know a bit better this second time around (meaning I have learned most of their names) during our Fundamentals of Nursing Practice II course. A promising group of 30 students, with a responsible and receptive class representative, always available and responsive when I have needed her: to find a classroom or a student, or to let me know what’s really going on when I have been totally clueless as to the way things work (or don’t work) around here.
Thankfully, she wasn’t the problem on this last day of class; in fact, she has never been a problem. But one of her colleagues was.
This was the female student who has sometimes gotten up in the middle of class to leave the room, supposedly (I had thought) for a bathroom break during the long, two-to-three-hour lecture time allotted to me and of which I use every second. (I generally give no breaks in class because I’ve learned that if I do, several students invariably don’t come back.) Today, when I asked her where she was going, she informed me that she had to “speak to a friend”.
To which I promptly replied that no, actually, she didn’t need to do this right now, in the middle of our class time. And I made her return to her seat.
Well…apparently this didn’t go down too well with her, because a few minutes later, I caught her texting with someone, her phone strategically placed between her legs so that I supposedly wouldn’t see it.
But I did.
And, adding insult to injury, this was the second phone that I had taken away from her that day, this one borrowed from her partner-in-crime friend who is always seated next to her in class.
Sheesh. What a lot of nerve these two have had.
And so, I ended my last day of teaching for this trimester with two students staying after class to listen to a very impromptu and somewhat incoherent mini-rant by me on what it means to be a college student, a responsible and respectful class participant, a professional-nurse-in-training at a Christian institution, blah, blah, and blah…
They sat there dutifully, of course, like stones, like statues, throughout the whole thing, eyes downcast, mumbling short apologies when I finally let them go. Most likely they recounted the whole episode to the texted “friend” afterwards, perhaps with wounded pride at the unfairness, or the unreasonableness, of their only mzungu teacher.
Not the way that I had wanted, or had hoped, that my last day of teaching would go.
Not what I had expected. And not for the first time with me thinking, “I’m too old for this”.
Not for the first time wondering what am I doing here, really? Has it been worth it, to move halfway around the world to come to this Christian place where respect for teachers or classroom content is sometimes lacking, where there are students who seemingly just don’t care that their parents are working their fingers to the bone for them just to be here?
At Kabarak University, whose motto is “Education in Biblical Perspective“.
Bruce and I are rapidly coming to the end of our time here. I have one more half-trimester to go before the end of June, when we will sell or pack up our few belongings and leave to return to the U.S. Our two years have gone fast, as they always do when viewed from this end of things.
I will teach one short class in May-into-early-June entitled “Ethics and Legal Issues in Nursing Practice“, a course I developed and just finished teaching to the senior group of nursing students (the “pioneer”, or first, nursing class at Kabarak).
This was the class in which the star pupil, the class representative, plagiarized his entire ethical dilemma paper. He had somehow thought that I wouldn’t notice this; or wouldn’t care.
But I did.
Discouragement. Disillusionment. Defeat.
“ My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.” Psalm 22:14.
I know that this particular verse from the Psalms is meant to describe Jesus’ agony on the cross. But sometimes, it has seemed that pouring out my life for the students here has been for nothing; has been a complete waste of time.
Especially one week later, when the student who had been texting her friend on the last day of class was caught with “cheat sheet” papers in between the pages of her final examination booklet. Caught by me. Justification of my prior judgments of her character, yes.
But oh….so bittersweet.
This is not the way I had hoped it would go.
Clearly, I believed that God had called us here to Kabarak University for this short season of our lives. Everything that happened to get us here pointed to, no, shoved us in this direction. Support, material supplies, renters, timing….all were a big “Go” from God.
And, thankfully, I still believe that. It was right to come here; we are supposed to be here. I am so grateful for that understanding, because it really helps me during hard times that I have been experienced since being here.
They have not all been hard (but somehow those are the ones that seem to “stand out”). For all the difficult students I’ve had in class, there have always been the well-behaved ones, the ones who sit in the front row and come faithfully on time, who do what I ‘ve asked them to do, the ones who perform well on their assessments.
These are the ones to whom I have poured out my life like water in my teaching. These are the ones who have hopefully learned a bit about what it means to become a Christian nurse, ones who will work to transform their future nursing practice environments into places of true caring, concern, and refuge for those patients and clients who desperately need it.
I am so grateful for them.
For students like Susan, who sent me an email after teaching my first Fundamentals II course, which read: “I am sorry you won’t be teaching our class next trimester. You are the best teacher that I have ever had….”
For Abigail, who said: “Thank you so much for your good teaching to us. I always learn so much from your classes….”
For Mercy, an amazingly bright student who is financially sponsored by one of our missionary “sister” organizations (because her parents can’t afford to pay the fees at this expensive, private institution), who emails me regularly to find out where she can learn more on her own about the things she’s being taught in class….
Thank you, Lord, for these precious students. Oh how I pray they will continue to grow and mature into their understanding of what it means to be a Christian first; and a nurse, second. Give them a passion for you to help them survive in a country where corruption sometimes seems like breathing; where things often won’t get done without a little “kitu kidogo” (something small; a bribe) to grease the wheels.
How I pray for them and their future ministries as they step out into their futures in this beautiful country with such potential, but one that is so shot through with decades of corruption, graft, and incompetence; including in healthcare.
Help them to be shining lights with integrity that will stand for You amidst this sea of darkness.
And thank you that I have had a small part in guiding them through their educational nursing program during my short time here.
I am so grateful for that.