The primary reason for my move to Uganda was not just to quench my wander lust but to continue to enhance my teaching career…from another international perspective. I won’t go into the specific details on how I acquired this position or what led me to Uganda. However, if you just can’t help yourself to know more about how I discovered this exciting teaching opportunity, please check out this blog post for more information. In the near future, I’ll share with you how I applied for such position and how you can get an international teaching position anywhere in the world!
So, I am working at one of the best International British schools in Kampala. It has a strong reputation and is known to produce many successful, IB graduates. I, however, work in the primary section of the school as a Year 2 teacher. For those of you who are not too savvy on the Brits system of teaching, Year 2 is equivalent to first grade in the States. Let me just stop right here to say I LOVE FIRST GRADE! Let me tell you, my first few years of teaching was in the first grade. These kids are so darn impressionable at this stage because of their enthusiasm for school. Besides that, you can have so much fun while teaching AND I always tell people this is the age where so many dynamic skills are learned which will carry them throughout the duration of their academic career, heck their entire life!
Day to day…
The curriculum, schedule and routines are a bit different from what I’m used to but hey, that’s life and its all about making necessary changes. I teach English, Math, Geography, handwriting, phonics and science. I manage guided reading groups 3 times a week along with morals, guidance and positive reinforcement. There is a lot of curriculum to cover but the good thing is that its arranged in a way that’s suitable and organized to prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed. My schedule is really nice. Students have specials classes (foreign language, music, art, P.E.) scheduled quite nicely each day which gives me an adequate amount of “planning” time. 🙂 Students also get breaks for snack and playground activities. So within a 6.5 hour block, I am teaching roughly 3.5 hours. I am not complaining on one hand but the other hand is saying otherwise. Sometimes, it’s a bit difficult when planning for the week because there is so much content to cover. It’s all apart of the adjustment phase which will mend itself as time progresses.
Who do I work with…?
I have a teacher’s assistant, a darn good one at that. She is local and Ugandan and has been teaching at the school for over 17 years! Sheesh! She helps a great deal with the students, especially during phonics, guided reading and differentiated math groups. She assists with taking the students to their specials classes and even gives me insight on the school dynamics in general based on her longevity with the school. She is a true blessing and I’m thankful for her. In addition to that, I have another Year 2 teacher I work with who is amazing! She has been at the school for 8 years and is a pleasure to work with. I am not the easiest teacher to deal with in the beginning because of the million questions and queries but…patience is key and that’s what she has shown me. So, I feel blessed to have this opportunity to work with such a great team at a great school with even greater children! Thank you, Lord!
The majority of the other staff is either from the UK and Uganda. You will find a sprinkle or two of teachers from other places like the U.S., Australia and other African and European countries. The secondary teachers are hardly seen by the primary staff simply because of the schedule timings and classroom locations. We have weekly staff meetings which allow you to see everyone and catch up on the school updates. When working at an international school, you truly have to be a team player and sort out your differences with people or either ignore them. There are so many varied personalities, teaching styles and social preferences. It is best that you find your comfort zone and live out your calling with class. Getting mixed up with the wrong attitude or group at the school can lead to havoc in the end. I try my best to stay to myself. Now, people love gossip. So, despite the fact that I keep to myself, speculations arise which is completely natural because clearly, people don’t know who you are. They attempt, in that case, to make judgements, which at times, may or may not be a complete fallacy depending on which way you look at it.
This is the most diverse group of students I have had the opportunity to teach. Oh, and might I add, the most well-behaved. YES! My students literally come from all over the world. I can appreciate that aspect the most as I embrace this new place: being able to truly say that I am preparing students for a globalized society that they are so rightfully apart of. Love it! Oh dear class…thank you!
Let’s see, I have students from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South African Indian, French, Australia, Italy, Chinese, Indian (from the country), American, Russian and Tajikistan. The upside to all this diversity is that it offers a variety of personalities, languages, perspectives and colorful conversations sprinkled with experiences that most adults can’t speak for. these kids are brilliant, smart and world travelers. Their parents are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, NGO gurus, and stay at home moms. The families pay a pretty shilling to attend this school so they don’t play around. I get at least 2 drop ins daily with “inquiring parents” who want to know how_______ is doing in my class. I tell them as much as I can during these impromptu visits. Parent communication can be quite daunting, believe me. I try to combat this by keeping them in the loop with constant email and face to face communication. I also try to be completely candid and consistent with them.
Being in a diverse classroom gives me the opportunity to appreciate different cultural values and learn different methods of teaching and a new-found appreciation for this profession, which allows me to adventure all over the world! My son would be in for a treat being here. I am planning on having him join me next year if all is well. God knows best and will make a way if that’s in his will.
In addition to the curriculum, these students have a plethora of extra curricular activities to attend everyday. Talk about staying out of the streets and being focused. I’m telling you, and state side public school should take heed to the benefits of extra curricular programs. I currently run a Young Author’s club afterschool which promotes literacy, reading comprehension and fluency through story writing. The books will eventually be bound and submitted to the school library and even shared with the lower grades. This club among all the others works wonders for children’s self-esteem and safety.
The new “teacher” on the block…
Is not easy. Starting a new job in a new country is beyond challenging…not only do you have the adjustment phase of being in a new place, you have to deal with the settling in process of a new school. As one of the only other African-American teachers at the school, there is a lot of pressure to excel above and beyond the normal factors. Not only am I the new teacher…i’m black. Nuff said! Its almost like you have to prove yourself worthy which is so symbolic to the corporate America syndrome. I think being at a British school speaks a lot to the differences in administration and how teachers function. I am managing, adjusting, managing…and adjusting! I’m actually doing way more than surviving-this place is frigging awesome in comparison to where I was this time last year. I am truly enjoying the art of teaching again and making a difference in the lives of these kids, as cliché as it sounds. It’s true, though!
So, i’ll leave you with just an initial view of my experiences at my new school, which quite frankly all I have at the moment. As time goes on and experiences change, the honeymoon/adjustment phase will end. Then, I’ll post more about my school experiences, insights and overviews. I’ll even attempt to share a little about my classroom rituals that I follow religiously that do wonders for classroom management which is important when integrating into an international school setting with kids from various educational backgrounds.
Living in Uganda encompasses so much more than my school experiences. This is my life. I embrace each moment, savor the lessons and enjoy the bumpy ride along the way.
Until next time, be blessed!