27 July 2007

Meeting, Move like a Ugandan, & Heroic Teeth Brushing

* A picture of everyone in the Cluster. From left to right: Me, Amy (Namulansi) Olson, Wasike Anthony (Amy's counterpart), Beatrice (Allie's counterpart), Mutuuba John Fads (my counterpart), Allie (Namutebi) Muehe, Nangoye Patrick, Margaret.

* Here's how we roll Uganda style. To prepare for my visitors I rode to Kayunga (~20 KM away), and loaded to the gills I rode back in true Ugandan fashion.

* Allie and Amy stayed over the night before our Cluster (meeting of CCTs and PCVs in the Kayunga district), and Allie took this opportunity to take some pictures of me around my site. Here's a good shot she got of me heroically brushing my teeth.

22 July 2007

Teaching Ups and Downs

* "Teaching" physics: So, this kind of fell through because it was just too much. I was trying to teach 5 classes of high school physics, with no materials beyond a chalk board and only two days each week to do it. What I found was that there was just too much to do. I had to make a least two or three lesson plans the night before (and if they had been good ones they would've included demonstration experiments), thinking up exercises for each class to do (which I did a little bit), and then grading each classes answers and trying to keep track of progress (the classes have on average 45-55 students each). With my other obligations to Shimoni college to help my counterpart in tutoring Primary school teachers (a.k.a. what I Actually should be doing), I found I just didn't have enough time to be a decent physics teacher. If it was the only thing I was doing, yeah that'd be doable, but I had to settle for one notch down. After doing some thinking I arrived at the fact that a lot of what Physics and Math is about, and valuable for, is simply the ability to think and string together a lot of "If this ____, then that _____" statements - to be logical. So, what I'm doing now, is answering questions at the board for the 1st 40 minute period, and then playing SET and giving them logic games for the 2nd 40 minute period. It requires a lot less work, but is still helping them out. Just recently I also started going around and helping people individually, which seems to be really important because there are many who are trying, but fall through the cracks during lecture-style classes - I keep wishing that I could somehow setup a physics / math study center (but classes are pretty much all day and there's other problems too). As one example, I was helping one SII (~= 8th grader) student who was having trouble calculating density and as I found out, didn't really know what a centimeter was. I asked him, "how big is a centimeter?" Blank stare. "How big is a meter?" Blank stare. Then I pulled out my ruler and we spent the next 20 minutes, differentiating between inches, centimeters, and milimeters, and then measuring distances on his desk (which it didn't look like he had ever done before). So, it seems one of the biggest problems here, is that teaching tends to be very theoretical and not connected to the outside world, but at least that's one thing I can work on with my student teachers.

* Student Teachers: I've started supervising student teachers, which I was actually a little afraid of at first (even before I left the states). Because, "who am I to supervise these teachers? I don't really have any experience teaching classes." But, I've found that it's not too bad. It's easy to tell if the students are excited (or bored) about the lesson, and whether they like (or are scared by) their teacher. And then when students are doing exercises I try to think of ideas that could make the lesson better, often by connecting it to something physical. One example is a student teacher I just watched who did a lesson about weather vanes, wind socks, and wind cocks (roosters :). He drew some pictures on the board, had a good relationship with his students, and discussed the topic very well with them, but in the end the exercise was just a rote copying of what a weather vane does (point the direction of wind), and to draw a picture of a weather vane. That's all fine and good, but I could tell that the students weren't too excited by the material and I had a suspicion that they weren't connecting it to anything real and practical. So, when the st. tr. and I got together to talk, I first said, "I wouldn't expect you to build something like a wind vane ... kizibu nyo (that's very hard) ... but a wind sock would be pretty easy. You could use a leaf tied to a stick and come up and ask students to blow on it or have them make some themselves." And that sparked his interest and he suggested you could use a caverra (plastic sack), instead of a leaf, and I said, "Ah! That's a great idea, those are everywhere!" Then, we talked about trying to connect the material to the real world, asking "Why would you want to measure the direction of wind?" I suggested that you might want to know because if the wind is strong, then you know what direction a storm might be coming from, and he said that builders take wiund direction into account when building a house so that the roof won't blow off in a storm. All in all, it was a very synergistic conversation where we were coming up with different suggestions to help improve the lesson, make it more interactive, make it more practical, and make it more fun - it was awesome! Then I asked him to make a wind sock and I used it in a little lesson during the weekly meeting of student teachers to point out what a good Instruction Material it was (easy and cheap to make, moving / working parts, could be made and or played with by students, would help connect the material inside the classroom to that outside).

Out of time: loves ya all.