Always packed and ready to go! I cannot say that this was always the case for this particular traveler, but I can say that this is the habit of life that an itinerant teacher lives when facing the daily routine of life. Some people would tell me that they did not know how I could do it – the constant travel, the continual change in classroom, curriculum and routine….But sometime I would wonder how they could keep it up – always staying in one place for months on end with rarely a break from the daily grind of keeping house, schooling children, running ministry, maintaining community….life has a place carved out for each one of us for the proper season and time, and I would heartily claim that the LORD has prepared both life and the person for the venture. This is what itinerant teaching has taught me.
So, a little explanation on what it is like to itinerant teach in a non-western setting. In one word: incomparable. Itinerant teaching is incomparable to any other kind of teaching that I have encountered. I need to add that I have not encountered very many “kinds” of teaching since I graduated from college only seven months prior to itinerant teaching, and I really only had student and substitute teaching under my belt prior to this. I think if I had given a phrase to itinerant teaching during that first year, I would have said that it was a “one-time” experience for me, for I was glad that each visit only lasted for two or three weeks. This mentality was primarily due to the adjustment of first-year teaching, in addition to the constant travel and transition of itinerant teaching. After that first year was under my belt, although the wear of itinerant teaching was still fatiguing, I would certainly say that “I would not trade it for the world.” To know my students not only in the classroom, but also in their home and village setting, to know their family personally, sharing meals with them on a daily basis – these were the incomparable gifts that no other kind of teaching offers. It was a precious glimpse into the unique lives of my village students.
I could offer an exciting glimpse of school for the itinerant teacher and her students, including stories of field trips to the fon’s (or village chief’s) palace or of morning breaks catching stray chickens that had flown the coop or of school projects practicing photography and making village scrapbooks. The list could only go on! But while school can be very exciting for a village kid, it is also normal. Every day is filled with math, reading, writing, history, science, spelling, etc. for each student – a normal school day.
Incomparable, precious, exciting, normal – these are all words that I have given to itinerant teaching. The final word that I have to give is one that I saw time and time again in my adventure as an itinerant teacher. Purposeful. The LORD was very purposeful and intentional in placing me with each of my families at each of the times that I visited. Either for the benefit of the family or the benefit of the itinerant teacher, I can probably recount the purpose and meaning that each visit held. Sometimes the village families needed the educational advice or simply the break that the itinerant teacher gave them. Sometimes the itinerant teacher was blessed by the peaceful and beautiful surroundings of a certain village or by the joyful community that a village family encouraged and fostered. One scenario which exemplifies this was when I went to visit a family and teach their children for five weeks after the homeschooling parent was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and the family was anticipating the recovery period to take months. How fitting that the itinerant teacher had the time to stay for over a month, doing regular teacher tasks, but also filling in with meals and childcare! And I can only testify that God’s strength filled me to step into that role at that time. Thankfully, He replenished me with a brief vacation in the mountains before I made my next itinerant visit to a family who is very much like family to me. With dedication to school work, as well as to family time, enjoying creation and playing games as a family, I can say that this end to my two itinerant teaching trips was very restoring, due to the purpose that the LORD had for those two families and for me.
Now, itinerant teaching is done, its season is over for me. It was a great experience, one that I still miss and will miss probably for the rest of my life. And yet, it was time to end. The LORD prepared me even for its ending, as He was also preparing me for a new beginning of life as a married woman. I am still getting used to being married and I am still hoping to find other work as a teacher, but this is what the LORD has for me and it is good. Waiting teaches us to trust in Him and lean on Him more. We are in daily need of our God, our Savior. This is what itinerant teaching has taught me, a lesson I hope to continue to learn for the rest of my life. Do you feel that need? If not, maybe itinerant teaching is just the job the LORD has for you to learn your need of Him.