Today was a big day. This was the day we got to share our story-based learning skills with local teachers - the main reason why we came to Rwanda in the first place. These were adults, teaching at very high-performing schools, and they were counting on us to give training and advice to help improve their classrooms. If I though there was pressure at the boy’s school earlier this week, that was nothing compared to today.
We arrived at Urukundo, Drew gave some opening remarks, and we introduced ourselves as a delegation. There were a LOT of teachers there to learn from us, many of whom had travelled a significant distance to be there. It felt like over a hundred, but realistically was probably closer to 75. Unlike the boys earlier in the week, not everyone seemed eager to be there, and I could tell my group might have to work a bit harder to get everyone on board with story-based learning.
Once we split up into our groups (my group was mostly made up of language teachers, especially English and French), we each took a classroom and ran through our exercises. The story-based exercises were basically ingrained in our bodies at this point in the trip, so distributing the information wasn’t terribly difficult - but we received very interesting reactions from the teachers when teaching. Several stopped us to ask or inquire why we did certain things, or tell us what it reminded them of. There was a surprisingly large amount of dialogue about the education that I was not expecting to have.
We also encountered several cultural differences when teaching. The simple act of raising one’s hand, quite commonplace in the US, was replaced with a rapid snapping of fingers (which startled us at first). Many teachers weren’t too keen on offering verbal responses when we asked them to create themes, or to offer descriptive words, instead choosing to walk up to the chalkboard and write them down instead. And nearly everybody sat down at one point during the training (as theater majors, our delegation was quite used to standing up for extended periods, but we didn’t account for teachers who were older, or pregnant, or simply not used to standing for extended periods of time). None of these differences seriously affected what we were communicating, but they did force us to adapt our teaching styles, which in turn helped us to further our message.
I also made friends! The music teacher took some spare time after lunch to show me the music room (which had a piano!!!), and I was able to improv a simple tune with him on the guitar. And I also struck up an impressive conversation with the Urukundo school coach, John-Paul (who’d actually gone to college in the US, and was looking for a job in the states…). Through shared experiences (and LOTS of laughter), we quickly became good friends.
After working through the basic exercises, all groups presented a small story demonstrating the themes they created. It was wonderful to watch their enthusiasm, and the conversation at the lunch table was buzzing with interest. Tomorrow we’ll be applying story-based learning to the teacher’s individual lessons - it should be exciting!
I am traveling to Rwanda with the intent of a sponge - I want to absorb as many unique experiences as I possibly can, and bring them back to share with my culture. I am a multifaceted artist, and Rwanda is a treasure trove of valuable experiences to draw inspiration from. As a visual artist, I look forward to seeing unique handmade art, and letting it inspire an artistic vision. As a musician, I look forward to hearing vastly different than what I’m used to, and letting that inspire music from my soul. And as a teacher, I’m looking to see teaching methods different than what I have known. I want to bring these gifts back and share them with my culture.