I don’t even know where to begin to describe this experience, and I think it is going to take a week or two, or maybe more, for me to begin to digest the things that I’ve learned and reflect upon the inspiration that I have received from the 35 Ugandan teachers that I’ve worked with the last week. Their abilities have exceeded any preconceived notions that I had, and their dedication to learning as much as possible has risen high above any expectation I had. I have learned more from them, then I think they have from me, as they have truly accepted the meaning that one person, by doing even the smallest thing, can make a difference. They are inspired to change the future of Uganda and to help improve their environmental conditions…although this is a huge concept in itself, as teachers, they have accepted the responsibility that they have to educate the youth and future citizens; as it is these young children that can aspire change in their country.
Through this experience I have met some incredible teachers and a few stand out in my mind:
Annet – She is probably the strongest woman I’ve met here with a big personality! She never hesitates to speak her mind, rallies up the others, and motivates everyone to do their best and try their hardest.
Geneva – Her love for teaching is abundant is everything she does. She is soft spoken yet when she stands in front of an audience becomes this amazing motivator. I can only imagine what her classroom must be like, as her love for children is apparent in all of her actions.
Alex – This man is like a sponge, soaking up everything that is said, asking questions, inquiring on everything. I can only imagine the places he would be able to go if he was given the opportunity to attend university and broaden his learning even further. He is so keen to be the best he can be and learn as much as he can.
Agnes – This young woman touched my heart and I will always have a soft spot for her. She comes for a poor family, as both of her parents as farmers, and neither educated. However, they had dreams for their children, and were able to send all 3 of them secondary school (highschool), which is highly uncommon among farming families. At 16 she had her first children, to prove that she is fertile and increase her “wealth” to men. She continued to attend school, got her diploma in education, and raised her son along the way. She is currently teaching primary 2, aspires to get a degree in environmental conservation, and says that she will not get married until she has completed her degree. So for now, as she says, “I’m single and searching…”
Hariet and Faridah – These 2 young ladies are 2 peas in a pod and are something to be reckoned with. They questioned everything, volunteered answers, argued with individuals, and always challenged what was said. They continued to absorb everything that was said. If Uganda can continue to produce teachers like this, I can only imagine the change that will occur.
Through this workshop, we spent time teaching these individuals how to integrate environmental education into all aspects of teaching, whether it be math, science, LA, or social studies. We taught them new teaching methods such as cooperative learning, experiential learning, body language and it effects on teaching, and multiple intelligence. It amazed me how quickly they grasped these new concepts, and were able to integrate them into a lesson that they presented to us. We took the participants on a forest walk, where many of them this was their first experience ever stepping foot in a forest. Their fear and lack of knowledge about animals, wildlife, and the ability to coexist peacefully astounded me. Yet through this all, day after day, it was apparent the change that was happening with each of them. The resistance and negative attitudes on the first day disappeared by the last. They were open to new ideas and really want to work hard and together to make a difference. At the end of the workshop, they coordinated together as a group, to arrange for monthly meetings, appointed a chair person, and will meet to share their ideas and work together to create lessons and formulate change in their schools. What an amazing group of people to work with.
At the end of the workshop, they presented myself and my colleague Ted, with a wood carving of a gorilla, as a token of their appreciation. This touched me in words that I cannot even describe, and when I had to give my final words, emotions over took me (man, I hate it when that happens!). This is definitely an experience that I will never forget and I truly hope that I can bring home with me even half of the love, dedication, and appreciation that they have.