Tía is Spanish for Aunt. Not ringleader nor zoo keeper. And definitely not juggler, nor tight rope walker. It’s one of the first words to greet me every morning; well Monday to Friday at least.

I see “Hola Tía” on my phone by the latest 7:00 am from one of twenty three FUNdaciones related group chats and sometimes as early as 5:00 am (regrettably I never seem to be able to reply or even to find the phone to reply at those times).

I hear “Hola Tía” by the time I get to the door of any of the two Fundaciones schools.

I also feel “Hola Tía” as I get hugs, tugs, air kisses, and the accidental run ins and bumps.

What comes after this Spanish greeting is when I get a chance to show my skills. Because I deal with everything from school bag mix ups, to instructions about lunch, to messages about sickness, to lesson plan variations, to materials requests, to questions like “do you like my magic wand?,” to dealing with imaginary friends coming to school and replying with a “yes that payment is ready and they can definitely send for the cheque (on Friday).”

As ringleader I get the kids to do as I say, how I say, when I say, and by the time I say it again. I get them to set their intentions and repeat happily that they intend to have a good day while “tapping” several points on their bodies. Yes sometimes in between tears, sobs and the occasional obstinate and defiant act of resistance.

I’m a zookeeper, as I part fights, try to feed and get my kiddies and their teachers to do what they come to school to do and I even deal with bites; all this away from the camera (remember now, my children don’t misbehave for all and sundry to see). And boy do these require attention because Moms and Dads tend to follow up with another whatsapp or even phone call later on.

I can juggle minus the cones and balls but with my attention. I can talk to team members, while I read and reply to whatsapp messages. I can also approve lesson plans and tweak them while observing children. I can talk to my bank manager and send our bearer to pick up supplies before sitting around my desk and in my office (some days I literally don’t make it there).

And I definitely walk the tight rope as I carefully communicate our position and policy to potential parents and share concerns with existing ones. Better yet, I can do this smiling and walking around our schools as the ECC or the Public Health Department complete their inspections. Confession! Sometimes I have to force the smile, like I did today.

After that, I can have a cup of tea because it’s at least 3:00/400 pm and time to switch gears, get into a different type of teacher mode and get crazily involved in an after school big kids (high school) Spanish class. Then I escape to the gym or better yet….to drink a glass of wine.

I AM TIA: ringleader, zookeeper, juggler, tight rope walker.

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