So, how do teacher conferences happen in refugee camps? I’m glad you asked. It is quite a process to be honest. Not just anyone can go into the camps. There must be a sponsoring organization who is registered with the UN. Since my friend Uche partnered with the Church of Uganda to work towards their mutual goals. On my first trip Uche introduced me to the Bishop of the local Diocese, a representative of the Office of the Prime Minister, the leaders of Dreamland orphanage, the leaders of Hope Primary School, and the head of the Ministry of Education of the Church of Uganda.
Before I left to return home, Uche shared his dream to have a teacher conference in May 2018. His desire is to pour into the teachers, so they can pour into the community with the school as a central meeting place. It is a place where discipleship can take place and lives can be transformed. His vision was inspiring, but I didn’t know if I could come back so soon. God nudged me to come back in May as a facilitator for the first teacher conference in Rhino Camp, so I agreed to come and I brought my friend Karin who is a trainer of teachers.
Alfred the head teacher asked the teachers what they wanted to learn. Uche gave us the list, we tried to find a common thread. We submitted our theme, Active Learning Techniques, of the conference to Uche, who passed it along to Mama Juliet at the Ministry of Education. She designed the schedule, picked the topics, and added a team of Ugandan facilitators. We tweaked the schedule a bit and prepared to come as best we could. It was a wonder to us how it would be co-teaching with people we’d never met, about a curriculum we’d never seen, in a country half way around the world. We packed tons of supplies and resources. We carted them around the world and then purchased more supplies when we arrived. Then God put us with the perfect team, and by the week’s end we were like family. Sharing stories for 3 hours each day we bounced down the long road into the camp was a bonding experience. Our subject matter and teaching techniques flowed together in a way that could only be orchestrated by God. It was amazing.
We recognized that most of the teachers are English language learners and need instruction themselves. What better way than to model techniques? This year we submitted our theme, Literacy Across the Curriculum. We received the schedule. We tweaked it and sent it back. We again, arrived to a new facilitator team arranged by Mama Juliet. This time we brought two more teachers with us which meant even more stuff to haul.
Once we arrived in Arua, we were sitting around the table at our planning meeting of the entire facilitator team, when one of them told us he would be sharing Bloom’s Taxonomy. We cheered. Once again, God had the perfect fit for our team and theirs. Our teaching philosophies are the same, and we have realized education all over the world has similar issues, but also there are people passionate about education who are called to teach everywhere.
Yesterday the facilitator Lilian was incredible. She taught phonics in an engaged way. The teachers were completely glued to her. Some of them are still learning English so the sounds captured their attention while the games and songs kept it. When she was finished with her time, we had very little to introduce. We simply built on her session.
Today, we covered fluency and comprehension with lots of practice activities. We have read a book of the day each day to demonstrate how to engage children in stories. One boy stood outside the window just so he could listen in. We put out books for the teachers to look at and several of them picked them up and read them on their own. Readers theater, timed readings, more stories, higher level questioning, learning to summarize and clarify were all on our schedule. And if that sounds like a lot to cover in a day…you are right. Add in the heat, wind, and hard benches and it makes it even more difficult to focus. We do songs, chants, movement activities, and a number of other things to keep us going each day.
Tomorrow is the close of the conference. A session on behavior management for classes of over 100 students, and a session on how to do activities small groups of 25. We will follow up with a celebration of all we have learned. It will be a great day. Then we will begin planning the next conference…