Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Process of Doubting

For the past month, I have not been feeling confident in my abilities to teach or make decisions. Even tough I knew that I have experience and I think I am very thorough in my work, the little voices in my head kept warning me of the possibility of failure and taking the wrong turn at any point during the academic year.

Nonetheless, the event that gave me a new sense of belief in myself took place a few weeks back after the Principal of the school asked me to take over a part of my Head of Department's responsibilities; that of reviewing all admission applications and recommend whether or not they are able to succeed and if we, as a school, are able to support them if they have needs.

I received the first set of applications a week after my HOD took a leave of absence. I reviewed the applications; scanning every page and highlighting the important parts. I wrote up reports and made recommendations based on the information given by the parents, teachers and the students' entrance exam and writing sample, all the time doubting whether I was doing as good a job as my HOD.

On one application, I made a recommendation which was accepted by the Admin. However, when the student arrived, the first thought that popped into my mind was that I had messed up. I felt a surge of emotions ranging from anger at myself and guilt for having taken the wrong decision. How could I have missed such an important part of the application? This student had weak conversational English and she needed so much support in her subject areas. What did I overlook and did not foresee? I could not sleep the night I met her believing that I was the one who failed her and did not do my job properly. I was not thorough enough, good enough, experienced enough. 

The following day, after writing to the administration to alert them of my suspicions and consulting with the EAL teacher, all the while debating whether I should tell them that it was my mistake, I dove into her file to do some investigating. I compared the writing sample that she had done in my class with the writing sample in her application file. 

And Voila! I could clearly see that there was a major difference between the two samples. It was obvious that the student was helped by someone which gave the school, and myself, a distorted image of her English proficiency and as a result, her needs. 

Relief does not even begin to describe what I was feeling following that discovery. After placing the student in the correct class, it was time to reflect on the devastating habit of questioning myself and my abilities. 

Questioning oneself to improve on a skill or trait is an important part of maturing and becoming good at what one does. It is constructive. What is destructive to confidence is to continually question one's ability without giving oneself the benefit of a doubt as well as never seeing that what one does is good enough. 

No matter how many times, my parents, husband or friends had praised me for the work that I do or the fabric paintings that I come up with, I continue to plant those seeds of doubt in my abilities. This incident though and how I discovered that it "wasn't me" will help in adding one positive step to my doubting process; investigate and research before committing or surrendering to that doubtful feeling.  

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” 

Monday, April 14, 2014


This weekend, I had the chance to visit my future dream. A dream that has been going around and around in my mind like the wind mills of Holland. A dream that has been pulling on my heart strings and one that I wish to fulfill in the near future.

The whole trip to Arusha this weekend started on a bad foot. It was pouring rain here in Dar es Salaam but that did not stop planes from landing and taking off. My flight was delayed twice. Then whispers that there was no plane began to get louder. The possibility of not being able to meet my ex colleagues and students from my previous school in Bangkok put me into over drive and I had to find another way to get there. 

Within an hour, I withdrew money from an ATM, bought another ticket for another flight, went behind the counters to retrieve my bag and then checked back in again. My faith in humanity and peoples' kindness was restored that hour. One of the passengers on my canceled flight found out that I had less that 24 hours to spend in Arusha. She had already bought the new ticket and wanted to change the name on it to mine. I was so touched by her gesture but thankfully there was another place available and we both got to go. The plane was full as there were others who wanted to change flights and so we were extremely lucky. 

The reunion was awesome... I met the students' bus mid way between the airport and their trip to the snake farm. I nearly fell back out of the bus door because I was engulfed in warm bear hugs as soon as I stepped in. Great laughs and lots of catching up was done. I was so thrilled that I was able to find another flight to make it to see their sunshine faces. 

The next morning, and before I headed back to the airport, I was taken on a tour of Peace Matunda. My ex- students and teachers were there to work with students and orphans on the Peace Matunda Project location. It is a project which one Tanzanian man established to provide shelter and an education for orphans in the area. It grew from a small daycare center to an orphanage, school and now a tours and campsite company (a certain percentage of it goes to the orphanage and school). It caters for the needs of 23 orphans and provides a healthy and nurturing environment for them. The school enrolls around 250 students from the area and of course the orphanage itself. 

I was inspired... the whole project brought my dream to the forefront; helping the refugees in Jordan by establishing small schools around the camps. If one man with a clear vision of what he wanted to do could build such a project in the foothills of Meru, on the outskirts of Arusha, in a semi- remote area, then I could definitely do it for Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the deserts and hills of Jordan. 

Not only has this trip reestablished connections amongst friends and students, but revived and fueled a dream that I have. Let the research begin and the ideas of how to do it flow. 

That trip was meant to be. I was meant to go to Arusha. I was meant to hug my friends and I was meant to witness such a great project and meet giving inspirational beings.

ps. Please visit Peace Matunda's website and check whether you would like to help out. To sponsor one students is only 25 dollars a month.