Friday, January 11, 2013

Magic Mountain

Well, I’ve actually never read Thomas Mann’s celebrated work and I don’t even really have a clue as to what it’s about (kind of embarrassing for a former Lit Major to admit), but it seems an apropos title to this blog entry.  Last weekend, I made my foray from Arusha region back to Moshi, the capital of Kilimanjaro, where I lived pretty much straight through from the middle of 2007 to the end of 2011.

As I wrote (or attempted to write) in Swahili in my last post, I had to meet Baba Ngowi who is not only my Tanzanian “dad” but also, in Toa Nafasi terms, the Biden to my Obama, the Robin to my Batman, the Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote, the DJ Jazzy Jeff to my Fresh Prince….you get the picture….

After a marathon planning meeting, I was off to Glacier Sports Bar for a few drinks with friends and a night of letting loose in Mo-Town.  It was really nice to be back and I felt the love for sure, but I gotta say, I am SUPER-glad I have the peace and quiet of my house in Arusha!  I can’t do it up the way I used to, and actually I have too much on my plate to “rock and roll all night and party every day.”

One thing I really stressed in my meeting with Baba is that I want to get back to Msaranga as soon as possible.  Only thing is, because I’m now Toa Nafasi and not some newbie volunteer, everything must follow procedure.  Which means I’m in this weird holding pattern that’s driving me nutty.  Fair enough, school doesn’t start until January 14th and the teachers probably won’t want me to begin my observation phase until they’ve had a couple weeks to familiarize themselves with their students, the classes, the schedule, etc, but I am really ready to begin work!!  Maybe then, I’ll deserve that cold Kilimanjaro lager at the end of the day!

At any rate, I continue to oversee development of the website, meet with various contacts in the field of special education, and prepare myself for implementation of the pilot project.  I have been reading up on the syllabi for the four main subjects we are looking at – English, Swahili, Math, and Science – and also planning how I’m going to record my findings, for which Angi from UMass Boston gave me some guidelines.

Once I actually get into the school, I’ll spend a few months watching to see what’s going on: Who are the students?  Do they understand the material?  Are some stronger than others?  In what way?  Who are the teachers?  Are they following the syllabi?  Do they attend to children who seem to be struggling?

Then, when Angi comes in June, we’ll start the assessment phase using a version of the Brigance module, which is currently being translated into Swahili.  After completion of that and analyzing the data collected, we’ll develop some simple yet effective interventions that we can introduce to the teachers to help those kids who are struggling due to learning differences.  I’m not exactly sure what that will entail but it’s a bit down the line, maybe Fall 2013 or even later.  And by that time, I should have IASE and other volunteers to guide me.

So, the idea for this particular moment in time is just to keep my eyes on the prize and get the ball rolling.  My hope is that once rolling, Newton’s laws will keep the damn thing going!!  In the meantime, I’m starting to realize how hard it is to do computer work in a tropical climate when you have access to a swimming pool and a brand-new Kindle.

Until next time, my friends….

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