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School & Teaching

    My Farewell Speech

    We attended our end of the year staff banquet last Saturday. It is typical for teachers who are leaving to share a word with the group. It has been a hard few weeks thinking about leaving our home in the Middle East. I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the things I’ve learned while living in Turkey the past three years. Here is the abridged version.


    David and Leah dressed up


    Things I’ve Learned While in Turkey:

    1. Goodbyes are the worst.
    2. Assumptions can ruin a fresh perspective.
    3. Humility is best learned where you are totally uncomfortable.
    4. Vegetables in America are not as good.
    5. Plastic forks in Turkey don’t taste good.
    6. Wash your veggies.
    7. Eggs don’t have to stay refrigerated.
    8. The milk that’s sold at room temperature won’t kill you.
    9. Everything at the bakkal costs iki buçuk.
    10. When teaching Bible, it’s good to establish the proper pronunciation of condemnation: “There is no now constipation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
    11. The world is not such a small world after all. There are many lost who need to hear the word.
    12. The best way to get rid of a dog that is chasing you is to kick it in the face.
    13. Travel is my refresh button.
    14. Establishing a good work/home balance is important.
    15. Camel köfte is a little bit tough.
    16. European football isn’t all that bad. American football is still awesome.
    17. The librarian is a hotty.
    18. Some students who appear to have it all would rather spend all of their time at school because of the love shown there that they can’t access anywhere else.
    19. Be prepared for the shock that ensues when a student asks you if his cat is asexual.
    20. Tear gas really does make you cry.
    21. It is selfish to worry about my students as I leave. It is beneficial to pray for them.
    22. I spend a lot of time in the car in America.
    23. Speeding laws are enforced in Turkey.
    24. Intestine cooked on a rotisserie is actually not that bad.
    25. Just give in to the personifications of the school printers. Also, both Fred and Wilma have staple functions.
    26. Greg won’t go to the hamam.
    27. Short on the sides and long on the top means a mohawk.
    28. Usually, conflict starts with people hearing the same thing, but having different interpretations. Talking about these interpretations can solve a world of problems.
    29. The Turkish Airlines cheese sandwiches are awesome.
    30. Snow tubing with me is dangerous.
    31. Sometimes when you play soccer at recess, a bicycle kick results in torn pants from your knee to your belt.
    32. 20 seconds of awkwardness could make an eternity of difference. Take advantage of every opportunity.
    33. Family and home are relative.
    34. Goodbyes are really just see-you-laters.


    Friends at the banquet



    Students Say The Funniest Things: Part 6

    Our international school has approximately 240 students. I see all of the elementary classes once a week for Library and some for Computers. David has his sixth grade classroom and also sees elementary students for Bible, Character, and PE. Here are a few recent quotes. (This might be the last of these quote posts! We will miss our students here so very much.)


    Atrium pep assembly



    The preschoolers were playing an online pizza making game during Computers.
    Boy: “Is it done stoving yet?”



    Before school on Pajama Day, a first grader came up to me to tell me about his outfit:
    Boy: “I’m wearing pajamas today! But I usually don’t wear underwear to bed.”
    He then realized he was talking to a teacher about underwear, got embarrassed, and quickly walked away.



    For the last three years part way through the year, some elementary students suddenly realize David and I are married.
    First grade girl: “Mr. B, are you and Mrs. B married?”
    David: “Yes, we are!”
    Other first grader whispers with wide eyes: “Are you two in love?”
    David nods and says: “Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!”



    Another school spirit day was Character Day. A sweet little kindergartener we’ll call Kay came dressed up in a doctor outfit.
    Me: “What a cool costume, Doctor Kay!”
    Kay: “No, it’s Doc McStuffins.”
    Me. “Oh, okay.”
    Kay whispers: “But it’s just dress up. It’s pretend.”



    David was teaching his sixth graders about sexual and asexual reproduction in Science.
    Boy 1: “Mr. Benedict, I think my cat is asexual. We only have one cat, and all of sudden, she had five kittens.”
    David: “Well, I’m sorry to tell you, but…”
    Boy 2 interrupts: “Your cat’s been cheating on you, man.”



    We have the cutest lower elementary students from Japan this year. Many of them are just learning English. A boy had some cards in his pocket and they were playing soccer ref before school.
    Boy 1: “Red card!”
    Boy 2: “Yellow card!”
    They continued to point out red and yellow things around them. One girl happened to be wearing her school ID card around her neck. We’ll call her Sally.
    Boy 3: “Yellow card!”
    Boy 1: “Red card!”
    Girl (holds up ID): “Sally card!”



    A couple of preschool boys love to draw fight and battle scenes on the back of their activity papers. I told them that was not appropriate for school and that we do not draw guns in the library. The next week during library, the boys were playing and motioning weapons again.
    Me: “Boys, no guns.”
    Boy: “…in the library?”



    Another from the Japanese students… It’s a rule at school that the kids must speak in English. (For academic, as well as safety reasons.) I reminded the prek and kindergarteners several times one week. “You must speak English at school! No Japanese.” One of the little girls really clung to this phrase, perhaps as they were reminding one another. One morning, I listened to a chant that went on for about 5 minutes. (Read this next part in a rhythm…)
    Kindergartner: “No, Japanese!”
    A group of first graders: “Yes, Japanese!”
    Kindergartner: “No, Japanese!”
    Kids: “Yes, Japanese!”



    It was the week before Mother’s Day, and I was introducing a book about the holiday. I asked the kindergartners if they knew what special holiday was happening on the weekend.
    Child 1: “Spring?”
    Me: “It is spring now, but that’s not the holiday!”
    Child 2: “Summer?”
    Me: “No, not yet!”
    ESL Child 3: “Teacha happy birthday?”



    I was in the preschool classroom during International Day to take photos for the yearbook. I was sitting down with the kids while one of the students was presenting a poster about their home country. A boy sitting next to me on the carpet said:
    “Did you know… I’m camera shy.”
    First of all, a five-year-old saying that term. Second of all, he was not camera shy at all.



    Before school one day, I had a conversation with a kindergartner.
    K: On my birthday, I’m going to be five and a half!
    Me: Do you mean your half birthday?
    K: No, on my birthday.
    Me: I think you’ll be six.
    K: I’ll be five and a half on my birthday!
    Me: Sorry, dear… it doesn’t work that way!



    After a Library class, a student came up to me upset and concerned.
    Third grader: “Mrs. B, I saw something that said ‘Die Bible.’”
    Me: “Where did you see it? Was it written on a poster?”
    Third grader: “No, it was on a book!”
    Me: “Where was the book? Where was the writing?”
    I wondered how and when someone had vandalized a library book.
    Third grader: “On the shelves when you first walk into the libray!” (The reference section.)
    Then it dawned on me.
    Me: “Oh! That is a German Bible! ‘Die’ means ‘the’ in German.”



    As we near the end of the school year, we’ve been telling our students we won’t be returning next year. David had the kindergarteners for once last PE class. (The lower elementary students adore David and PE class.)
    Kindergartener: “But I want you to be my PE teacher until I go to anniversary!”



    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 1
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 2
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 3
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 4
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 5



    Our Next Step

    During the fall of 2013, our second year as international teachers, we had to make a decision about extending our contract for a third year. Coming into our third year, we knew we had to make a decision about a potential fourth year. (This is how we’ve come to measure our life: the year before we moved to Turkey, our first year in Turkey, our second year in Turkey, our third year.)

    As we faced the decision this past November, we did not sense His immediate answer. We knew would faithfully stay or faithfully go. Moving to Turkey was a leap of faith for us. We put our trust in the Lord and His calling and believed in His power to provide. And provide He has. We’ve struggled with the challenges of living here, but we’ve also experienced joy. Still, we felt a bit of a draw to certain country for a couple of reasons. We applied to another school in our network and left the decision up to God. At the beginning of February, we made another step of faith.

    We will be moving to Seoul, South Korea in August!


    Ankara to Seoul map


    It is a bittersweet decision accompanied by a range of emotions.
    We are sad to leave our school, our students, our coworkers, our community, our church, our friends, and our family here. Turkey threw its arms open wide and became home to us. We have spent more of our marriage abroad than in the States. For all of this and more, we are grateful.

    As we celebrate and grieve our last few weeks in Turkey, I want to savor each moment. The sounds of this place: our students laughing on the playground, the shouts of the simit man waking me up on Saturday mornings, the calls to prayer. The smells, the sights, the beauty of the landscape. Taking communion as an international body at church each Sunday. The crazy taxi rides. The tastes: the döner, alinazik, lahmacun, dondurma, mercimek çorbası, simit, patatesli açma… Everything, down to the very last glass of çay. I don’t want to forget anything.

    We came to teach and influence our students and community. Anything we might have accomplished pales in comparison to the ways that they and this place has changed us.

    Looking Ahead
    As we are processing our upcoming goodbyes, we are also excited for a new place to learn, teach, and grow. David will teach fifth grade, while I will focus on language and my freelance graphic design. It has been a real gift to see how God is providing for what’s ahead, even now. We are at peace knowing this is our next step.

    At the same time, it is overwhelming to think about packing up our life here and starting over in a new place. Turkey is familiar and comfortable. Turkey is home. But now we will (and we must) learn a new culture, language, transportation system, how to grocery shop, how to cook with new foods, make new friends, and much more.

    I, especially, am scared about returning from whence I came. I was adopted from Korea as a baby. Moving to Korea will be different from our move to Turkey on so many different levels. I’ll be surrounded by people that look like me. I won’t (for once) stick out in a crowd. I will be a learner in a place where the people will expect me to know everything. I realize I am approaching what will be the most challenging time of my life so far. I am attempting to mentally prepare myself as I know I will be a huge disappointment in the eyes of my new host culture. I had a great talk with a Korean-American friend about his experience of moving to Seoul. I am trying to keep in mind that no matter how I look or how much language I learn, I will always be a foreigner. And that’s okay. I am praying for strength and love and grace.

    As we look ahead, where we are now, and behind us, our cups are full. We are so thankful for the last three years in Turkey. We are thankful for the opportunities that lie ahead. We are thankful for our support system of family and friends. We are also thankful for your prayers as we make our transition.



    Snow Day!

    Winters in Michigan bring a number of snow days. (Sometimes even cold days for negative wind chills.) One winter, my aunt and uncle from Texas came to visit. They were so amused by the fact that we needed to shovel snow off of our back porch to relieve some of the weight. My uncle was also tickled by the term “lake effect snow.” It takes a LOT of snow for a snow day in Michigan. Snow trucks and ice trucks and scraper attachments for pickup trucks are a way of life.

    Now that I’m a teacher and living in Turkey, snow still has a magical effect.


    Snow on window sill


    Instead of running to the TV to watch bottom of the news channel, we run to our computers and check our emails and the school website. The last two years were very disappointing with hardly any snow at all. But this year! Today was snow day number FOUR!

    There are BIG, fluffy flakes! It’s like sitting in a snow globe.


    Snowy street


    Snow on window pane


    Snowing by the school


    I ran errands on Tuesday and stopped by our little neighborhood flower shop and got these beauties. Hooray for a day of rest and for beautiful views both outside and inside. Here’s (“secretly”) hoping for another snow day tomorrow!


    Pink Gerber Daisy and white flowers



    Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 5

    Our international school has approximately 240 students. I see all of the elementary classes once a week for library. David has his sixth grade classroom and also sees many of the other elementary students for Bible, Character, and PE. Here are a few recent quotes:


    Tourist Day



    A first grader was telling me about Minecraft one morning:
    “And today, I’m going to make a craft table. It’s easy breezy.”



    An ESL student commenting on David’s marathon training:
    “I sometimes see Mr. Benedict running passionately and quickly down the road.”



    Elevator conversations with preschoolers:
    Preschooler: “I know you and Mr. B live in the same house together!”
    Me: “We do! Do you know why?”
    Preschooler: “No…”
    Me: “Because we’re married!”
    Preschooler: “But boys don’t get married!”
    Me: “Mr. B did. And so did your dad.”



    Fourth grader: “Mrs. Benedict, do you have the Gent book series?”
    Me: “No, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of those.”
    Fourth grader: “They all end in gent. Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant.”



    David had the preschoolers and kindergartners for a combined PE class. They were playing tug-of-war, and David explained the rules. “I will say one, two, three, and then you pull!” After he said that, a little boy came and stood next to him. He walked the boy back over the rope. Ok, everyone ready? I am going to say “One, two, three, pull!” The boy came back over to David. And then it clicked… The boy’s name was Paul. In his home country’s accent, it sounds very close to “pull.” David walked him to the rope again and said, “Ok, Paul. Pull!”



    Kindergartners during computers class comparing the levels of the game they were playing:
    Boy: “I’m on the ninth!”
    Girl: “I’m on the twoth!”



    A first grader brought David a basketball to pump up with air.
    Boy: “This ball no bounce good.”



    One of the kindergartners who is learning English told me one morning:
    “Today is my baby’s birthday!”  (a younger sibling)



    This wasn’t from one of our students, but I feel like it could have been. My friend told me about it and she heard it from one of her friends. It’s a sweet story that gives insight to what life is like for TCKs.…

    A young girl came home from her international school. (The family was from the States, but had lived abroad for most of the girl’s life.) The girl was so excited to tell her mother about a new student. It was a boy! They played together at recess! They had lots of fun!

    Where is your new friend from?” Mom asked.
    “I don’t know,” the girl replied.
    “Well, what does he look like? Does he have dark skin? Light skin?” Mom asked.
    “I… I don’t know!” the girl said. “I forgot to check!”



    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 1
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 2
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 3
    » Read Students Say the Funniest Things: Part 4



    Basketball Spirit Week

    Last week our school had three spirit days before the girls and boys basketball tournament.

    Wednesday was Hat Day! One of our friends gave David a fake beard and he turned it into hair:


    David with Detroit hat and wig


    I wore a hat in support of my alma mater:


    Harding hat


    Both the elementary and secondary students loved hat day! I was so happy to see so many participate:


    Sisters in hats


    Hat day


    Reading on hat day


    Mickey Mouse ears


    Thursday was Tacky Sweater Day. I didn’t take as many photos this day. I wish I had gotten one of David! One of our friends told me they couldn’t help but laugh when they saw him disciplining a student while wearing one of my cardigans.


    Tacky sweater day


    Tacky sweater day


    We also had a pep assembly on Thursday. See the cute sign my cheerleaders made?


    Atrium pep assembly


    My friend coordinated a sock toss game:


    Blindfolding for a game


    Sock toss game


    Friday was a half day and School Colors Day. The kids played in the basketball tournament on Friday and Saturday. There was a great turnout of teachers, students, and families. The teams played really hard! The girls placed third and the boys placed sixth. We also had some All-Tournament players.


    Boy playing basketball


    Teacher cheering sports


    Basketball girl shooting


    My cheerleaders had a BLAST! I loved seeing how much the crowd enjoyed their spirit.


    Elementary cheerleaders


    It was a fun and busy weekend!