The last two days have been filled with relationship growth, making new friends, and challenging others while at the same time being challenged myself. We have been attending the teacher conference that we help run alongside Africa New Life. Their leadership runs the conference but we lead a few of the sessions.
This year, we led sessions on communication, modern teaching, and methodology. We also broke up the 170 attendees into small discussion groups to help model how they could use small groups in their classrooms of more than 60 students in some cases.
Overall, they are very receptive to learning new ideas that they can implement in the classroom right away. They love that we come and share ideas with them, and we love coming and building relationships with them.
My top ten thoughts from the conference:
1. African tea (tea made with milk) and African food is delicious. The food is all starch which is probably why I love it. (again with the #worstdiabeticever) Matoke, posho, dodo, rice, beans, and some form of random meat. YUM. Not everyone shares my love, however.
2. Africa time would never be ok in the US. We had a couple morning breaks with Africa tea , but we did not eat lunch until 2 pm. If American teachers had to sit at a conference and not eat lunch until 2 pm, they would revolt. Neat new perspective.
3. Keep it simple. When you're leading a conference where everyone is speaking English with a different accent and English is their second language, keep it simple and talk slower than you normally would.
4. I need to be praying for my students more. We talked a lot about redemptive teaching and spreading the light of Jesus to our students. Teaching in a public school in the US makes this challenging, but I cannot use this as an excuse to avoid shining the light of Jesus every day even when it's hard.
5. Conferences with breaks where we sing worship music, clapping, and dancing with a great musician in 11th grade should happen everywhere.
6. Ok so the bathroom situation is interesting. There were two women's bathrooms for the whole conference of 170 people. Now more than half of the attendees were men, but still. You learned to go during a session instead of being polite and waiting until the end. Also, these were flushy toilets but sometimes the hotel ran out of water which meant you used a bucket and dumped water in to flush it manually. A little gross and I may have missed the toilet bowl and spilled water on the floor. Oops. They were super tiny stalls and one toilet didn't have a seat, but it definitely beats the squatty potty.
7. There was a sweet and very talented young man in Senior 5 (11th grade) leading some worship time. He had some music that he recorded and sang along to that was in Kinyarwanda. As he was singing, A LOT of people started walking up and sticking money in his pocket. Like he was in a night club...All of the muzungus (white people) were confused and asking, "Did that just happen?" Yes. Yes it did. Apparently it is a cultural thing where you show you like something and support it by sticking money in the pockets. I was voted to put money in his pocket by the team. I'm 100% sure my face was a tomato.
8. Leading any session at a conference like this helps you to learn the importance of modeling. Don't just talk. Act it out, draw pictures, use anything you can find to help explain your message. When you are teaching teachers, it is important to teach as if you had students in your room.
9. Sam is the Dean of Students at New Life Christian Academy in Kayonza. He has some talent with computers as well. By talent, I mean, he really loves powerpoint transitions. Every time someone new gave him a computer or a flash drive to run the powerpoint, he would quickly go through each slide and add transitions. My personal favorite was the one that looked like curtains opening. The presenter generally didn't know that is was happening until the whole room would laugh at the transitions. John Africa however, thought his slides had disappeared instead of just a transition. The entertainment was so real.
10. Maybe the greatest part of the conference is the end. At the end we take pictures. Like so many. I had people who I had not met yet come up to me like I was a celebrity and take pictures with me. There would be 10 cameras in front of you taking the same picture. They also really liked to change the background and then proceed to take the same picture.
Hands down most shocking moment: I sat with a man I met 2 years ago. He was surprised because he didn't recognize me right away. I kid you not this is what he said, "I did not recognize you because you have become fat." I thought, "Surely, I heard that wrong." So then he repeated himself. I said, "Oh, I am wearing my glasses today and I did not two years ago. Maybe that is why you didn't recognize me." To which he replied, "No. It is because you have become fat." I was called fat 3 times today. I did not freak out or cry or yell at anyone. Laugh so you don't cry people. Cultural differences for the win.
Tomorrow I see my sweet Eric and we go to Bugesera. Cannot wait! Hugs to all of you!