Back to School
Oli Otya!? – This is the common greeting in Luganda. It means “How are you?”, but is used as the general greeting. In English, many people will also greet by asking “How are you?”. I’ve learned to not simply say “hello” or “hi”, but always “Good morning, how are you?” even when waving to someone on the street.
This week I went to school!
On Wednesday I had my official “greeting and introduction” at the university. I was led into the Vice-Chancellor’s office and was joined by the Dean of Education, Academic Secretary, and the head of Academic Registrar. At first, I have to admit I felt like I was sitting down for an interview. They asked me various questions about where I’m from, my experience, what I think my expertise is, and how I plan to help/collaborate with them on certain issues. Pretty quickly though, I relaxed, realizing I could be confident in most of the answers. When I wasn’t confident, I simply explained that I would need to observe and spend time on campus and schools in Uganda to know more. They were friendly and very welcoming. After we talked for a while, they brought in some special spiced tea and food. I gave them all notebooks that I got from The Department of State and they were a hit! The vice-chancellor told an African proverb that explains that a friendship is formed over something shared. Good thing I brought some gifts!
Thursday I had to go into the capital & to the embassy for a few meetings. I was able to meet some Fulbright graduate students who just arrived in country. None of them are focused on education specifically, but it was great to be able to chat and hear about their projects. They are all based in the capital, but I got some of their contacts. Its nice to know there’s someone I can call or email if I want to come into the capital for the weekend. I did get a little sad though, because they were all making plans to go out that evening in the capital, and it just showed how location can truly play a big part in making friends and socializing. One Fulbright researcher and I discussed some plans for a women’s day event. I’m so excited to collaborate with her on that!
Friday was the day I was to report to school on my own! The walk is 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) and mostly flat, on a dirt road. I do have to cross the main highway which is a bit scary every time. I almost got hit the other day (sorry, Mom. I’m trying to be careful). The highway does have a light and crosswalk, but this doesn’t mean it’s followed.
I arrived at school a sweaty mess! The sun was beating down hard that morning. My hair was instantly up in a bun & thankfully I had a tissue to wipe off my face. I was brought to the office but my appointments weren’t there. I waited for almost 2 hours 🙂 . The concept of time is something I’ve been told about a lot in regards to East African culture. I didn’t get frustrated or annoyed because I knew of this. But, ask me again in a few months :-).
The meeting went very well. I met some colleagues and we chose the courses I would be teaching / assisting with. I will be team teaching with two other professors for four courses. This next week, I’ll be sitting in and observing their classes and reviewing curriculum. Then, the goal is to co-teach or share the course load. The reason I’m co-teaching is because they would like their professors to collaborate with me as much as possible. This gives all of us a chance to collaborate, peer-observe, and learn from each other. So far the courses are: English Communication (for all majors), Reading and Writing Skills (for education students), Materials Design (education students), and the fourth is still being decided after I observe a few.
Outside of teaching, a main goal of my fellowship is materials design & teacher training. I already have a “Developing Literacy Skills for Early Education” workshop in the works for some primary teachers at a near by primary school. The education students will also be invited.
The university would also like me to lead teacher training workshops for all faculty (so, not just education faculty, but faculty across all studies). This makes me a tad nervous haha, but we’ll see. Finally, creating instructional materials is a major need and goal for the university.
After the meetings, I went to the library to explore. It instantly hit me how privileged we are with our resources in the States, and how much we take for granted. They repeatedly said they’d take any books possible. Thankfully, I’m able to get some resources and books from the embassy. I may take inventory of what’s most needed and request books with some project funds. The bathrooms are nothing to write about… eek. It seems I’ll never get away from squatty potties.
I hope you’re enjoying the posts! It’s fun to sit down & process & write.