TODAY IS QUITE POSSIBLY THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE BECAUSE KYAKATARA PRIMARY SCHOOL FINALLY HAS A LIBRARY! Shout out to the international aid organizations that dumped a bunch of books at the school 4 years ago and left them (quite literally) in the dust without any follow-up or teacher training. You’re doing development right. Now, my highs and woes of transforming a storage room of books into a functioning library…in numbers:
2,668: Number of books in the library
125: Number of American textbooks that Marian refuses to let me get rid of (Helllooo “Writing and Grammar for the Twelfth Grade”)
100: Number of times I thought about giving up
14: Number of months spent organizing, labeling (by hand!), cataloguing & cleaning mysterious excrement off of every. single. book.
10: Number of seasons of “Friends” watched while completing the aforementioned tasks (don’t judge me.)
6: Number of seasons of “Vampire Diaries” watched while completing the aforementioned tasks (don’t judge me. more.)
4: Number of months the library project was halted out of frustration AND the number of incredible helpers I gained during those months after the realization that I should really learn to ask for help
3: Number of library workshops planned for teachers to a) train their pupils on proper library usage and etiquette and b) conduct their own library lessons
2: Number of libraries in Kyenjojo District
1: Number of weeks until 470 pupils enter a library for the first time in their lives.
This term is already so busy and it just started!! Here’s what I’m up to:
- Positive Behavior System
My school doesn’t practice corporal punishment but teachers sometime use “shaming” to discipline students. I’m hoping that by introducing the idea of positive discipline, talking about alternative forms of classroom management and by having teachers make clear behavior expectations for their pupils and implementing a school-wide reward system for positive behavior, we can create a safer space for our kids to learn in. I learned about PBS during pre-service training (which feels like years ago) but it seemed too daunting of a task until now. Plus, my head teacher is very receptive to the idea, which makes my job easier.
RUMPS workshops for P4 & P5 pupils will also be held this term and this time, my superstar facilitators from P6 & P7 will be the ones to lead the workshops! Yay, sustainability!!
EXCITING NEWS! I AM CURRENTLY PUTTING THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON THE LIBRARY, WHICH, AS YOU MAY RECALL, I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON FOR THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF. Of course, the work doesn’t finish once the library is finished. I will have to design a series of workshops to teach teachers and pupils how to use the library but after cleaning rat poop off of a million books, that doesn’t seem like such a huge task.
- Co-teaching in P2 AND P4
Up until now, I’ve only co-taught in P4 but this term, I will also be joining the P2 teacher a couple times a week to teach letter sounds. Phonics isn’t typically taught in Ugandan schools but my school is part of an early-grade reading program through USAID. (How children learn to read in English without learning letter sounds is a mystery I’ve yet to unravel.)
- Model Teaching
This may be a rather ambitious goal. I want to teach at least one lesson in each class this term to show teachers how to conduct child-centered lessons with a literacy component throughout all subjects. Teachers are used to an archaic form of teaching involving lecture and rote memorization that isn’t very effective…..or fun. AND SCHOOL SHOULD BE FUN!
- Spelling Bee
I am a regional director for the local language and English spelling bees that were created by an organization called Enjuba. We had a training for the spelling bee last week with representatives from over 30 schools in the area and it went very well. The directors for the program are 2 incredibly passionate Ugandans who care enormously about literacy. Last year’s regional spelling bee was very small but it was one of the highlights of my Peace Corps service so I’m really excited for this one!
In other news, I have been flip flopping between being thoroughly terrified of Post-Peace Corps Life and being wonderfully intrigued by it. I am currently in the “how the hell am I going to leave this life of adventure and romance?!?!?!?!?” (Yesterday, I treated myself to a really romantic dinner where I sacrificed precious battery life for a little Marvin Gaye and brought out the nice, scented American candles that I usually reserve for guests.)