What I’m up to:
1. Reading intervention groups
After analysing the data from the early grade reading assessments, I’ve picked 30 pupils to work with on improving/developing literacy skills. I’ve divided the pupils into 3 groups of 10 and I meet with them twice a week to cover alphabetic and phonemic awareness, comprehension and fluency. I love working with the kids so closely and seeing their progress.
2. Full class instruction
Once a week, I do full class literacy instruction in P4. The class teacher, Robert, helps me by translating and assisting the pupils who have a hard time understanding me. Not only do I get to see the children get excited about reading, I get to see how Robert interacts with the kids and learn from it. I’m hoping to make an appearance in every class from P1 to P7 before the end of the term. Side note: a couple weeks ago, my friend Stephanie sat in on one of my classes. She gave me a lot of positive feedback but the best thing she told me was that I smile when I teach, which I did not realize at all! I love it.
I’ve started two clubs. One is the gardening club, which expanded from a group of 20 kids to the entire school. Now, instead of having just one club garden, each class has their own garden. Pupils are growing vegetables that they will then harvest and sell or use to provide food for themselves. This is really awesome to see because a lot of the children come to school hungry and my school does not have a feeding program.
The second club is The Happy Club which combines elements of the child protective rights program through World Education (my secondary project) and the Happy made by Zed program. It is made up of 2 representatives from each upper primary class (P4-P7). Essentially, what I wanted to do was create a group of leaders, discuss different topics with them, such as positive living and the de-stigmatization of HIV/AIDS, and then figure out a way to relay that message to the rest of the school via different creative outlets (music, plays, posters, etc.). We had our first meeting this week and it went really well. For this project, I’m working with Matia, a fellow teacher and one of my favorite humans on this planet. Side note: I introduced the term stigma to the pupils by first defining loneliness. Then, I asked the kids to draw or write about a happy memory and a sad memory. I never realized how artfully children could portray abuse and HIV. I also didn’t realize how much value they put in education. Most of the happy memories had to do with school!
Earlier this month, I held my very first workshop with my counterpart, Gladys.The topic of our workshop was phonics and how to teach letter sounds. We had 100% attendance and everyone arrived on time! This is basically unheard of in Uganda. I am currently working on holding a workshop to teach girls how to make reusable menstrual pads.
This is probably my toughest project. I started organizing my “library” by pulling the books from the shelves, taking inventory and cleaning them. One day, I noticed that the roof had a leak. That leak turned out to be multiple leaks. This was a huge problem, considering rainy season. Now I’m trying to convince my head teacher to turn one of our other (leak-free) rooms into a library. Until I can present my case to the School Management Committee, I’ve made a makeshift library in my classroom. I’m also applying for a library grant for bookshelves, which I hope will sway the SMC into letting me do what I want (to put it bluntly :)).
On a more personal note: Being in Uganda has changed the way I perceive myself, in more ways than one. Previously, when I told people a little about my past, they immediately showered me with words like “strong” and “resilient.” To be honest, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t consider myself to be any stronger than the stranger next to me. I did what I had to do to survive. If I didn’t go to therapy, if I didn’t try to understand myself, if I let other people dictate my life, I wouldn’t be living. Not really. For me, there was no alternative. I started this year with a host family that didn’t feed me. Not even two months after I was sworn in as a volunteer, I got hit by a motorcycle and when I finally recovered from that, I got robbed in a taxi and my cat died. Peace Corps makes it really easy for you to terminate your service if you feel that you can’t continue with it. After the robbery, I thought the death of my cat would be the last straw. I thought for sure that I wouldn’t be able to handle all the pain and I would leave. Once again, I underestimated how strong and resilient I really was. I’m still here and frankly, I don’t feel resigned or defeated, I feel invincible and more than ever, I feel like I belong here.