22 September 2007

Low Points, Pictures, & Plans

Sorry for being so quiet over here, but there's not a terrible lot that's new. I've just finished my 3 (well three and a half) month In-Service Training (IST). It was a week long, and as was advertised by Jeffrey (one of our program directors) it is most commonly THE low point for most volunteers. I'm not exactly sure, but I think I actually had my low point last week sometime and I'm definitely not as happy-go-lucky optimisitc as when I stepped off the plane. But, I just wrote a pretty big letter about that so I think I'll leave that alone for now - I'm really trying to look forward to this next term.

Here's my baby (Jesse, I wish I'd listened to you earlier about solar stoves, but I was too excited making other plans). Probably the only really productive thing I've done in the last few weeks while school has been on break. I'm really quite proud of it even though it only makes water REALLY hot, and not yet "boiling" :) . But, in my defense, I'm pretty sure it'll boil like a champ as soon as I get some black paint for my kettle, because at the moment the silvery surface is just reflecting off a lot of the light. For a quick description of what you're seeing, I used a design I found from a "solar cooker"-search on Wikipedia . It's just a big piece of cardboard (about 1.2 m X 1 m), I cut a couple slits in it and made a few folds, then I taped/glued aluminum foil to all the main reflecting services, last is a little green-house-effect transparent-plastic cover thing and there ya go, Free Energy. My neighbors, and some other teachers that had walked by showed a lot of interest, so maybe this'll become more than a backyard project.

Also, here's a picture of some JIKA volunteers (it's almost exactly Japanese Peace Corps), who came to visit my house briefly. You may notice that I no longer have any hair - and also that the line dividing my forehead from my lack of hair is amazingly straight. Yes, I know it's fairly hideous and as another volunteer has described "Putin-esque," but the Ugandans have all told me how "smart" I look and there's not that many mirrors here anyway. My barber had never done Mzungu hair before (he buzzed downwards for about 20 minutes before Amy showed him that you have to go against the grain to really get the hair) and started making some very straight lines before I could stop him. You should see the sides, they're like ladder steps. Anyway...

So, I'm looking forward to this next term and I have a fair amount of plans:
1) Continue supervising in-service student-teachers: This seemed very productive last term and I really enjoy watching the teachers teach and they seem to appreciate the feedback afterwards.
2) Teaching Math to student-teachers: I noticed during my supervisions last term that many of my teachers use "guided discussion" and "chalk-and-talk" and left it at that. So I'd like to teach them some math each week (because most nearly failed math, on their promotional exams the average was 47% - because 35% is set as passing, although it probably shouldn't be, because except for log properties the test wasn't THAT hard), but using more methods like groupwork, and games, and mini-projects so that they can get the math skills and maybe also see some alternative methods in practice.
3) Visit all 65 of my schools: This might be a bit ambitious, but I'd like to go to all of the schools in my catchment area this next term which will partly be in an effort to collect information and see which schools are doing the best (and worst) and why. The plan is to rank the schools visibly so that H/T's have an idea of how they are doing (and hopefully will have some social pressure to do school improvement, or at least to be at their schools {abesenteeism is a fairly big problem}), and also to inform some future projects. One of the main lessons that I did get from this workshop is that improvement in education happens at the school level versus at the level of individual teachers (Jeffery told me that many studies have backed this up, which I'd like to read if anyone maybe wants to do a bit of digging for scholarly papers? ; ), so maybe after this study I'll pick a few schools to start working more closely with.
4) And other smaller plans -> Look into making our Resource Center secure (it currently has nothing in it, because things would just be stolen/destroyed) -> Ramp down the Physics/Math at the secondary school to be just a once-a-week study center deal ->some other things I can't remember, but thankfully wrote down somewhere.

One last note in response to Ludan's comment asking about the weather here: Yes, it pretty much is summer all of the time, except that there's very often explosive thunderstorms, especially in the rainy season (I think it's partly due to the migration of the ITCZ-InterTropical Convergence Zone). It's amazing to see the sky darken and a good wind whip up a storm and then hurl down big crocodile tears (none of that Seattle mist-rain crap), all in 20 minutes. Also, it was a bit strange coming here because when I left (March), we were near the equinox, so the length of the day in America was about 12 hours which +/- 7 mins is the exact length of the day here. This means that it was very easy to transition to the day's length, but when the days never got longer it felt as if time had stopped. No new season was coming. Half light - half night -- DAY after DAY. I think I'm pretty much used to it now, but it'll be interesting to see what it feels like going the other way.

Alright, that's all I have time for now. Sorry for being a stranger. Letters shall be written. Loves all you all and hope to hear from you soon.