A little encouragement goes a long way

Guyana sunrise
By Elizabeth Archer
June 1, 2015

"Miss Beth!"

I turned to see who was shouting and barely caught a glimpse of a group of children before they vanished behind a bush.

They shouted again and again.

At last I saw the crew of three boys and began to race toward them. As they ran off, having made an escape plan, my slippers were left in the dust. This was serious racing. You'd think I'd have an unfair advantage, being nearly four feet taller than the young boys. You'd be wrong.

As I got closer, they shouted again. They tried to run faster but I caught up with one of them. The others didn't go much farther, but sat down with me and the boy, Ravo. We talked about how quickly they ran, what we had for lunch and eventually about school. I mentioned how I hardly saw Ravo. He would be in my remedial class if he ever came to school. I hadn't seen him since last term.

"I'm your teacher now," I told him. "I'd really like if you came to school. I miss you when you don't come."

"Yes, miss," he said. He smiled, just a little. If there's one thing I cannot handle, it's the smiles of my kids. They are too cute. My heart has already been filled to maximum capacity and cannot take any more love for them... at least that's what I think until I find myself loving them a little more.

I chatted with the boys for a couple more minutes, then headed off to continue my day.

Eventually, I ended up back by their house, swimming in the creek. The boys I'd chased earlier spotted me when I was already in the creek playing catch with some of the other children. They tried to race me back to land when we left at sunset, but I'd used up all my speed earlier.

As they walked home, we started playing "last touch." The goal is to touch everyone last – before they can touch you. I tried my best but there was no hope. I was tired and they were drawing from the endless energy that all children seem to have. As they ran off for the last time, Ravo looked back at me. I waved in the fading light. His smile shone.

The next week of school I tried not to have high expectations. I knew children would say "Yes, Miss" to just about anything to be polite. But, doing attendance on Monday, I smiled to myself. Ravo showed up.

As the weeks passed, I couldn't believe it. There were some days, particularly when the rain was excessive, when he didn't make it. But, more often than not, Ravo was there, the perfect student.

It turns out that a little encouragement goes a long way, and I would know: Ravo's attendance is the encouragement I need to keep going.

Elizabeth Archer