I’m not on vacation.
I’m not on vacation.
I’m not on vacation.
I mean, if you count leaving your job and the daily grind as going on vacation—then I’m on vacation.
But, I’m not really on vacation. In fact, I started “working” this week. I say “work” because it doesn’t really feel like work to me. I get to spend the next four months learning, observing and researching all in hopes of completing a project that will benefit teachers and students in the states–particularly in the stellar institution of Moose Lake Schools. This Fulbright is really shaping up to be one of the best experiences of my life—and I’ve seen Beyonce.
So, what exactly am I doing?
In applying for this Fulbright, I had a slight game plan as to what I wanted to achieve and how I was going to do that. When I arrived, I felt very overwhelmed because I actually needed to figure out how to do it!
The US Embassy coordinated us to work with the Ministry of Education (Yes, I’m like the girl version of Harry Potter!) and specifically, the Curriculum and Evaluation Department (CDE). The culture surrounding schools is a bit different than in the US. Every school (primary to university) basically requires a formal introduction and a formal letter. I can’t just roll up and say I’m a Fulbrighter and I’d like to visit your school. You also can’t just send an email asking for an invitation. Everything is extremely formal. The CDE is the perfect host. They are absolutely hooking us up! We work with a team of coordinators (social studies, music and a general coordinator). My coordinator, Benjamin, is the man. Technically, he serves as the Evaluation coordinator at CDE. Think of the person who has to answer for crappy national test scores—that’s him. But, he used to be in the SS department and as the SS specialist was out of the office for the week, he’s been helping me out. We have daily conversations regarding education in Botswana and the US, he has made and came to appointments with me and he’s provided me with some “light” reading material. Each time we go to an appointment, he formally introduces me and then allows me to explain my project. So far I’ve met with four different University of Botswana professors (3 History and 1 SS Education). Our general coordinator, Mrs. Phirinyane has written me letters to get me into schools, the National Archives, the National Library and the UB Library. They are legit magicians.
Aside from making formal appointments, last week served as the first of a two week period in which I’m doing a lot of background research. I’m reading as much as I can related to the colonial period in Botswana. I’m going to the National Archives this week. Now, those of you who aren’t history nerds (hollllla Dana Kotecki Williamson) don’t understand just how big of deal it is to just prance in to the NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND WORK WITH PRIMARY SOURCES. This would be extremely challenging in the states and I would definitely need a research permit. But, by the grace of CDE, I’m in. They’re going to arrange for transport, walk me and just like that–I can work with documents from the 1800s. I’m seriously geeking out.
Starting in February, I will be visiting one school a week. I’m going to seven, six Senior Secondary Schools and one Junior Secondary School. They are located throughout Gaborone with a few located in villages outside of Gaborone! At the schools, I’ll be interviewing students, teachers and observing lessons. I’ve already learned a few veryyyy intriguing things regarding schools in Botswana. First, class sizes range from 40-50. (I feel bad for complaining about 36). Second, social studies and history are two separate courses or tracks in schools. AND THEY ARE NOT REQUIRED IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS. In fact, social studies is only required in junior high. Why is it that math dictates everything? Sorry math peeps, but it’s incredibly interesting that in many countries…learning algebraic expressions mounts more than understanding citizenship or where you came from. Given the current US situation, I feel like we should be showing a lil’ more love to the social studies department! The UB History professor wasn’t so happy about this little fact here in Botswana either. Finally, I’ve heard that most teachers teach to the test and lecture through as much material as possible. While I’m thankful there isn’t a standardized Social Studies test in the US (yet), there is one in Botswana. Teachers are held to the scores and the scores were just released this last week…and they weren’t so hot. Every teacher reading this understands what that means. We’ll see what happens when I get into classrooms in February.
After visiting classrooms throughout February, March and April, I’m using the last of my time to develop a curriculum guide for teachers back in the states (and myself!) I also have to finish my project report for Fulbright. Whhhhhhhhewwwwww. That’s a lot of words about “work”. Thankfully, the people I’m working with are the best. I know I’m in good hands.
P.S. I have a legit office. The Office theme song plays in my head every time I enter it. I’m sooooo official!