Let the Children Come

Jessie Hulst

After wonderful days of biking, walking, exploring, and taking in experiences, sights, sounds, and smells, our group began our work with NIBC today. I was able to work with Rainbow School in the third grade classroom.

I was assigned to review the short vowel sounds. The teacher left the room for the day and I was left with the students and no plan for the hour. There were seven students in four small tables. As is customary, we all took off our shoes at the door. The whiteboard was extremely blue so that the blue marker barely showed up. Unlike U.S. classrooms, there was open floor space in much of the tiled room.

The students knew some English and one boy helped the students if they didn’t understand me. The two girls giggled when I spoke and repeated me … I think my English sounds funny compared to the Khmer or Korean accented English they usually hear! Below are some points which stand out to me:

  • Many of the words the students used for flashcard review are things which they are not familiar with … foxes, maps, pillows, nibs (even students in the U.S. might not know that one!)
  • When reviewing words with short vowel sounds, I would ask related questions to find more short vowel sounds. When we came to pillow, I had to explain what it was. I said I would put it on a bed. They responded, “no beds” and explained that they sleep on the floor.
  • The children praying in Khmer.
  • The students telling me what they want to be … a teacher, three doctors, one interpreter, one chef. I pray they will do great things for God in this country.
  • The children in the room next door reciting, “and Jesus said, “let the little children come to me…”

I loved working with these students today. It is literally impossible for me to comprehend the difference in the lives we live. I want to celebrate the wonderful culture and way of life as developed through history while I continue to struggle with the questions. “What should be developed? How? What will be lost with development as traditionally sought?” I don’t want this country to be caught up in the western ways.”



5 thoughts on “Let the Children Come

  1. Continue to wrestle with these questions! They are the first step toward transformation of both you and Cambodia!

  2. Were you able to use any of the materials we sent along? I hope some of you can envision fun and educational uses for them.

  3. Waht a rich cultural experience, Jessie. I know you are open to letting God shape you through them, and I know the children you interacted with will not be the same because of your contact with them. I will pray with you, “Let the little children come!”
    My love goes with you,

  4. Very interesting Jessie. Your story reminded me that crossing cultures is tricky. I made mistakes using Michigan assumptions when I got to Montana and then made mistakes using Montana assumptions when I moved back to Michigan. I affirm your prayer that Cambodians not be swallowed up in Western culture. It seems to me a difficulty is that prosperity is defined by western concepts. Perhaps if we used the word “thrive” instead prosperity we could advance our conversation and understanding.
    Love you,

  5. P.S. The above and below was a response for blog assignment 3 as well (Jessie)

    Grandpa – I would definitely agree with you. My hopes for the Cambodian people would be thriving, and that would include their unique culture and community. By including these two things as well as economics and other measures of prosperity in the goal of “thriving”, it is implied that my culture or techniques would not be applied in any way which is harmful to these things (as long as they are not evil).

    Today, when I left the school for the last time, my whole class (of 7) swarmed me saying, “we love you, God loves you, God bless you” over and over. I know that my time there was worthwhile for me in many more ways than for the school. Though I hope I left a good impression of the United States and Christians as well as helping the students to learn a bit in English, the reality is that I was only there for four days. Yet I know that I learned that much about how to use ESL strategies in a practical way in a setting with VERY minimal English. I learned how to keep some control over a class when smoke from a brush fire is filling the room. I learned several new Khmer words and names. I learned to be more imaginative in my teaching due to the fact that I had no resources. I am very grateful, therefore, for the opportunity I had, and pray that this will be an experience I will remember and learn from for the future.


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