Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Brooklyn to Brussels

ImageThe more I teach, the more I love my job.  I truly enjoy working hard at it.  And as I look back on the schools I’ve worked at, I’m amazed at how different they are.  After my first two years teaching in Kinshasa, I thought a lot about my desire to grow horizontally rather than vertically.  I didn’t want to move up and out of the classroom, I wanted new classroom experiences.  When I consider the wide range of schools and communities I’ve worked with, I begin to realize how much each place has broken me down and built me back up again. One of my kids last year wrote a note to all the teachers, apologizing for his wild outburst in class, and promising to be the newest, best version of Sulaiman ever known.

Sulaiman 4.0

As I kick off my sixth year of teaching, I definitely feel like Ms. Rich 6.0.  Kinshasa broke down any preconceived notions I had about structure and standards, and teaching at that school felt like riding on a phoenix who was rising from the ashes.  Goma broke down my pride and fueled my humility as I struggled to collaborate through the stumbling blocks of language and cross cultural communication.  Brooklyn- ahhh Brooklyn.  It might still be too soon to say, but I’m pretty sure Brooklyn took my overall understanding of my profession to a whole new level.  I felt both challenged and nurtured, respected and also prodded to improve every aspect of my teaching. And now here I am, entering year six in Brussels, Belgium.

Already there are huge contrasts.  From a strict, heavily documented and studied discipline system with silent roundabout class transitions to a totally laissez-faire atmosphere where the only hallway rule is don’t run.  Each day I put forth my best 6.0 self, and I’m eager to see how that will be dismantled and reassembled in a new way.

ImageI’ve complained about moving so much in the past two years.

Kinshasa to Virginia
Virginia to Goma
Goma to Virginia
Virginia to New York
New York to Virginia
Virginia to Brussels

And now that I’m settling in, hoping to be grounded here for a few years, I can say with less exhaustion that I do enjoy the process of reinventing myself both professionally and personally. And I feel privileged to be refueled by soul food from so many corners of the world. Every summer I get family, Alexandria and that feeling of home- definitely good for my soul. Whenever one of Anga’s family members arrives here from Congo I get plenty of sombe, beans and rice for my soul. And now Belgium boasts enough beer, waffles and fries to give my soul a heart attack.


Settling in nicely.  Guest room is open.
Very excited for this round of reassembly.


4 comments on “Brooklyn to Brussels

  1. Rachel
    September 13, 2012

    Sara, I love reading about your adventures in teaching and all that you’ve learned so far from the different schools that you’ve taught in! It looks like Brussels is going to be very different and interesting. I hope things keep going well for you!

  2. Mom
    September 13, 2012

    Can’t wait to see your guest room, apartment and school. Hope I will be allowed to sit-in your classroom (as I did in Kinshasa and Brooklyn). Watch out for the fries – that’s the biggest order I’ve ever seen!

  3. Lonnie Rich (dad)
    September 13, 2012

    Love your story, Sara. A variation on my new favorite saying:
    “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I am not in control of anything but me; and with me, I can make of this day the best that I can will.”

    I hope the powers-at-be at ACPS read your blog and know what a fine teacher they failed to snag.

  4. mcall0912
    September 13, 2012

    Great story, Sara. You are the heartiest person I know and I hope you will continue to have “joy for the journey” as Daddy Windy would say. Kwa kuonana!

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This entry was posted on September 13, 2012 by in humanities, inspiration, life, teaching, travel.
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