I have exactly 6 more weeks left at the school. That’s 30 working days. 41 days including weekends.

I will finish my work in Kurdistan at 2:55 on June 20th, 2013.

Then I will be DONE.

It’s like seeing the finish line at the end of a crit. I make the last corner and go straight into the final sprint. Head down, legs pumping, no thinking, no talking, just heart pumping to get me to the finish line as quickly and directly as possible.

While i know I should be going out and experiencing as much of Kurdistan as I can in my final weeks, I just want to reach June 20th by the quickest and most direct route possible.

I keep my head down at work. I plan my lessons, do the work with the kids, laugh and take time out of the material I’m supposed to teach in order to sing songs and play with my kids. Whenever I run into bureaucratic BS I bite my tongue and continue on with my day. The administration has no hold on me. I’ve got my kids, and I’ve got my 6 weeks left.

The first few weeks in September, I hated my students.

Just savor that sentence for a moment. I loathed these tiny people. How terrible is that? But I was so SO overwhelmed. I was an untrained, inexperienced teacher. I was alone in a new country without any knowledge of the culture or language.

I hated these tiny monsters for making me so exhausted. They screamed and hit each other and yelled at me in Kurdish and Arabic and as much as I tried to teach them to read, they looked at me blankly. They threw their food on the ground and peed themselves and had runny noses and cried constantly. And there were 28 of them.

I wanted to scream and burst into tears.


They still scream and hit each other and pee themselves and cry – but much, much less frequently. And now they can read. They know some English. They know my signals (stand up, sit down, quiet, lunchtime, recess, no hitting, time out). We have a rapport.

In the mornings when I enter the building I have to make sure that my cup of coffee is less than half-full; my kids keep watch at the classroom door and when they see me they scream, “MISS RACHEL! IT’S MISS RACHEL!” and make a mad dash down the hall to tackle-hug me. If my cup of coffee is full, it’ll spill on the mob of little kindergarteners hugging my legs. Sometimes it’s a close call, especially when Meer barrels into me and, since his head is bladder-height, knocks all the wind out of me.

So in September, my kids were the main reason I wanted to leave. And now they’re the main reason I enjoy living here.

They are adorable, and though they give me a headache I’ve learned how to handle them. I know when Saiy comes to me complaining of a stomach ache because she’s hungry (8 minutes before lunch). I know that Meer Mohammad only needs to go to the toilet first period and after recess, and if he says otherwise then it’s just to hang out with friends in the hallway. I know to sit Ranya as far away from the door as possible because she sneaks out without warning. I know how to spot an approaching Jad tantrum and how to head it off. I know that if I humor Darin then he’ll think he can get away with anything. I know that if Mihra looks grumpy, I just need to catch his eye and make a silly face, and he’ll start grinning. I know that when Mina comes up to me complaining about another kid, I can compliment her English and she’ll walk away beaming, forgetting totally about the fact that Bayar looked at her funny.

In my classroom I’ve made a sticker chart, super crayons as prizes for good behavior, and a “Busy Bee Box” to reward hard workers. I have the designated spot for coats, books, backpacks, stickers, crayons, clay, and books. I have systems.

I wake up in the morning and run, then go to work, come home and occupy myself until I go to sleep. I study Hebrew or Spanish, read books I’ve downloaded, or do some homework for my TESOL/TEFL certificate (which I’ve recently started – I want to have it finished by the time I leave Iraq).

I know I should do as many Kurdish things as possible, but I just want to keep my head down and waste as much time as possible so I can JUST GET to June 20th. I want to go to sleep early and get up late. I don’t want to go to parties because I want to save as much money as possible for Nicaragua. I want to read books and watch movies and spend my hours distracting myself so that before I know it, June 20th will be here.

I have to remind myself to call friends and go out and explore each weekend. I’m just so much in the SPRINT!!! mode that it’s hard to take my eyes off the finish line in order to enjoy my surroundings.

One thought on “The Final Sprint

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