The last couple of of weeks I have had the amazing opportunity to work in a classroom with some student teachers from Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH). They came to work with children with special needs. They needed assistance for their student teaching, and I have some experience teaching, so I agreed to help.

I worked with 10 third-grade students at Mount Airy Primary and Infant School. These kids all had various degrees of special needs ranging from behavior problems to dyslexia. So our job was to first figure out what, if any, learning disabilities or behavior problems the children had and then recommend methods for the teachers to use in order to help them learn better.

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Working with the kids was a challenge. They are nice kids but they have either fallen behind in the classroom or demand too much of the teachers attention and needed one-on-one help. There was one child who would after finishing anything in the class would want to show myself or the student teacher. It got annoying after a while, but he was a good student. It seemed like he did not get the help he need to succeed from his home so he looked for that source of affirmation from his teachers at school. We have meet many kids whose parents are absent in their lives and they wander the streets and get into trouble. These kids grow fast in order to survive but they are still just kids.

There was another child in my class who had behavior problems he would alway shout the answer and make a lot of commotion. The system we had in the class was a three strike system then they got put in a chair and had to wear a red jesters hat with bells on it. Once he got three strikes and moved toward the chair he started crying. So they are still just little kids.

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Patrick and students

So although teaching at Mount Airy was tough and a challenge, I understand better how to be a gift in Jamaica by being just as Saint Francis was, which is present. All of the kids touch my heart and softened it. No matter how hard the day was and how stubborn the children or myself were. There was always a least one kid that gave me and the student teacher a hug that made the day worth it.

We are all called to give of ourselves at all times even when we would much rather be doing something else, are tired or an other excuse we can think of. We can even do that back home by being present in the lives of those who need that extra attention and compassion. I have learned, it is a struggle to be a gift, and, for me, it is always a work in progress. I must remember what I learned and carry it on to whatever God wants me to do next in Jamaica.