To Build a School
You’ll need money and time. A lot of metal bars, countless bags of cement, and some non-corrosive paint. You will need a galvanized roof, supported by eight strong posts. Begin by building the foundation. Level it out, add rocks and re-bars. Now get some cement. Mix as much as you thought you needed, and then mix more. You’ll need workers, ideally people that know what they’re doing. If you can’t find any experienced construction workers, a group of ten teenagers from around the world will do. Like I said, you’ll need time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this classroom won’t be built in two weeks. The foundation of the classroom has been built. Now you will need thousands of plastic bottles to fill the walls. Once it has been painted, there you have it: a building. Now, I will tell you how to build a classroom.
You will need books, crayons, pencils, and a whiteboard. Little wooden desks arranged in a circle, complemented by equally tiny chairs. Arts and crafts should plaster the walls, adding life to the once blank canvas. It should be neat, but it likely won’t be. Little hands slip all too often, adding their own flair to the uniform desks. Whether in Ometepe or in Boston, I’ve found that a classroom is not a classroom unless it is paired with an endless supply of dying whiteboard markers. There you have it: a classroom. Now, I will tell you how to build a school.
You’ll need teachers. Ones that are invested in the success of their students, as if it were their own. It is easy to love these children, but not as easy to teach them. If these teachers are anywhere as tired at the end of the day as I am after an hour with kindergarten, I give them endless credit. That’s another thing, where there’s a school, there are students. I always like to start off my mornings with a friendly kick from Osmel, the kindergarten’s local troublemaker. There is a light in their eyes that I simply can’t explain; these children have the ability to make a rainy day seem so bright. The community of the Ometepe Bilingual School spreads far, and encompasses many other members. From Alvaro and Esther, who so skillfully run the hotel and school, to Janier, who directs the construction projects with precision, this community spreads wide. The women in the kitchen, the hostel staff, the parents, and now us- we are all apart of this community. Cement can build a building, but it can’t build a school. It is the people who build the school. And at the end of the day, there needs to be love. Love for knowledge, love for each other.
Having spent the last two weeks in Merida, I can safely say that this is a school. There is love here, so much love. There is love for the students, for the teachers, for each other. There is love for knowledge, for language, for technology. I am so grateful for the work we have done here. We have helped build the foundation for the fourth grade classroom, the foundation of many students’ English capabilities. A strong foundation leaves endless possibilities for what these bright children can achieve. Although I am heartbroken to be leaving this beautiful island in two days, I am so grateful. I am grateful to have learned so much from this school, this school that I never even attended. Now, now I know how to build a school.