Daughters of Promise November/December 2014 - Page 55

he pastors. Inspired by an innercity Christian school in Reading, Pennsylvania, the congregation told the Lord that if they had one committed teacher, three students, and $5000 in the bank by July 1st, they would start a school. When July 1st came and they had none of those things, they decided “not this year.” But on July 3rd, the owner of a building right down the street from the church called Brother Clayton and offered to let him have the building for the price of the closing costs, since he wanted to get it off his hands before winter. And so Tidings of Peace Christian School began. That first year there were five students. Today, twenty years later, there are forty-two students in grades kindergarten through twelfth. Maxed to capacity, with the seventh and eighth graders doing their classes in the nearby church building, they are in need of a larger building so they can expand. At TOP, parents have the option of paying full tuition, paying partial tuition with a sponsorship, or giving $30 and ten hours of community service a month. The school is able to operate because of volunteer teachers, with donations, sponsorships, and fundraisers covering expenses. Parents say they choose TOP because they want their children in a Christian school learning about God, or because their children were being bullied and pushed around in another school. At TOP, the children are treated with love and respect. TOP’s motto is, “Respect God, respect others, respect yourself.” Respect doesn’t always come easily. The first year Marlea taught, she spent hours with one troubled little boy. Because of his home situation, he came to school with his homework undone, refused to obey his teacher, broke pencils, and fell on the floor in defiance. That situation, along with adjusting to the new culture, made her first year difficult. The little boy eventually improved his behavior, but sadly, his family moved away after he’d attended only half Marlea continues to grow in understanding her students. “I remember I was frustrated with a girl who would never pay attention,” she told me, “and Brother Clayton made the comment, ‘What’s most important, for you to teach her the schoolwork or for you to show her love?“ He said there could be other things in her life making it hard for her to concentrate, and the longer I’m here, the more I realize he was right. You see evilness here that you don’t see in the country. You walk out on the street and see the moms and dads yelling at their kids, and “Just down the street from us there’s a lesbian couple who always have a lot of kids around their house, and they’re always noisy with yelling and drunkenness. The cops were out there just the other night to settle an argument between the two ladies. And down the street is a gay couple who adopted children-so sad. Where I grew up, the neighbors were married, one man, one woman, and this gay/lesbian talk was just what you hear about. “At school, the whole thing of ‘What would Jesus do?’ comes up a lot. They don’t understand why they need to do right, and we are trying to help them understand and live a more peaceable life. It’s so fun to teach them the Bible stories. Things that seem basic to us, that we’ve heard all our lives, they just soak up. To them it’s all new. “With discipline, I learned you have to focus on the positive. They might get verbal abuse at home, and scolding them doesn’t have much effect. But words of affirmation really make them beam. I’ve learned you should look for the good in what they do and give twice as many positives as you do negatives.” School ends at 3:00 p.m. Since her class this year is smaller and easier to handle than those of the other teachers’, Marlea helps with a multitude of after-school jobs: grading students’ work, mopping the gym floor, cleaning bathrooms and drinking fountains, fumigating for bugs, cooking, babysitting. After-school streets are crowded and noisy. If she walks down the street a ways, Marlea might see kids walking home from school or kids riding bikes, scooters, and ripsticks. There will be pedestrians of all shapes and skin colors. Neighbors lounging on their porches, playing with iphones or some other electronic gadget. She might smell cigarette smoke. Body odor. Beer on someone’s breath. On hot days, the smell of garbage from the bins. She might hear a siren passing in the distance, or the ding-ding of the snowcone truck. Rap music blaring from a passing car. A horn honking. This is the city. “Now when I’m out playing with the kids,” Marlea says, “I don’t let every person on the street bother me. Most of them know us and are friendly when they see the whole line of kids go walking by. I get worried sometimes, and we’re supposed to have phones on us all the time, but I’m not petrified anymore. “I became a real Yorker when I started collecting pennies from the sidewalk. I found a dime one day. That was a really good day, the best day ever.” Photo i Miller Kauffman by Luc arlea ed by M s provid It’s school as usual in York, Pennsylvania. If you would like to learn more about TOP, visit their website at www.tidingsofpeace. org. -55-