A Smile is Universal

After months and months of talking about this trip, it was finally here. It was really happening, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Teaching middle school in the states is great and all, but I’ll be the first to admit that I was craving the affection from the little ones in my new class. I had already loved these kids and I didn’t even know them yet. I was searching for those big smiles with lost teeth, the tight squeezes, the innocence, and the enthusiasm for learning. I am happy to say; they did not disappoint. The immense amount of love that these children, families, and school staff show to perfect strangers is immeasurable. They demonstrate happiness, laughter, and gratitude with every action; through holding my hand while we walk down the hall, following directions while learning cheesy dances, and giving the warmest embraces at the end of the day. The first day of school surely filled my bucket with exactly what I needed.

The Power of Positivity
On our first day of orientation, one of our leaders talked to us about the importance of “just being happy.” She shared with us her mentality that if you walk around with a positive attitude and a friendly face, people will feel your desire to be here. Simply smiling at someone can take you so far. She explained how “a smile is universal” and wow has that line has stuck with me this past week. It was exactly what I needed to hear to ease my nerves of the language barrier before my first day of school.

Unconditional love
Even though speaking Spanish was not one of the requirements to be a volunteer for BECA, the language barrier has been lingering in the back of my mind for the past six months. How will I effectively teach? How will I communicate? How will I build relationships? And most importantly, how will I order food?! For the first couple of days, I was comforted by the support of my English-speaking team members helping me communicate my needs with the local community members. However, I wasn’t sure what to expect when entering a classroom full of rising third graders. When I got to school, I was greeted with open arms, wide grins, and tiny voices cheering “Miss!” from all angles. With all of the first day chatter in the auditorium during arrival, I found myself doing a lot of smiling and nodding when the children talked to me. During our morning circle, freeze dance, and craft, there was nothing but smiles. Could I understand what the students were saying? Could they understand me? Most of the time, but not always. But did I know that they were having fun? Could they feel the love that I had for them? Absolutely. Their smiles said it all. These sweet, sweet children and I communicated during many parts of our first day together through smiles. These smiles were gentle reminders to them that I was happy to be their teacher, I was there to keep them safe, and I was excited to get to know them. Their smiles got me through that first hot day full of jitters and uncertainty and left my heart feeling at peace that I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Liza Beardsley