Growth and teaching

This time last year, I was sitting in an airport in a similar state — waiting for a plane to take me away to a foreign land for adventure and learning. While in 2018 I was headed to Ghana for what turned out to be an adventure of a lifetime (with awesome friends to boot), I now wait to board a flight to Uganda for another international fellowship.

After such an amazing trip to Ghana in January 2018 and given the impact it had on me personally and professionally, I decided to join the LRTT team once again to volunteer abroad in Africa to support local teachers.

On the Bwindi Fellowship in Uganda, we stayed in the remote South-West of the country at LRTT’s lodge. The Lodge really is a home away from home. Priscilla and the amazing staff make you feel warm and welcome at every turn. Amazing food for every meal cooked and prepared from the heart. And if you feel like carb loading on your trip then don’t worry — potatoes are a main staple and are prepared in various ways for most meals… and are always delicious!

Waking up to the beautiful mountain range and trees surrounding the lodge brings a calm and peace that allows you to manage any stress you may be feeling. Remember to take time for yourself to recharge and reconnect. While the delicious food helps with the physical needs, you should ensure to take care of your mental and emotional state while in another country.

Living in such close quarters with your other fellows and the main mess hall creates a real sense of togetherness and family. Sharing meals, playing games and the workspace makes for a seamless culture of communal sharing and supporting.

Waking up at the lodge, heading out to the decking with a coffee to enjoy views like this.

Delivering Professional Development (PD) in such a capacity builds personal skills and abilities

As I have never had to plan, prepare and deliver PD before I was really nervous about this aspect of the trip. With trepidation, we began preparing and planning for the conference ahead; Six days of delivering content that was important, powerful and useful to the teachers. Both globally-relevant with ideas taken from the forefront of research on teacher development, yet at the same time tailored to the needs of teachers in the Bwindi district.

We worked closely in pairs, as well as having the fortunate opportunity to work alongside Lead Teachers (local teachers who have been through the program and demonstrating an interest in leading PD themselves). It made for such a great experience. A team of three spring seamlessly together to support, uplift and instruct in small groups. A close bond was formed with the group which allowed positive and fruitful interactions to take place.

Sharing ideas with my team of teachers during our workshops

I was fortunate enough to give a speech on behalf of the fellows and here is an excerpt of how I felt about the conference and the impact that was created:

To the teachers: We all pray and hope that the things we have shared over this conference were helpful, constructive and valuable to you and your school setting.

We are amazed at the work you are doing in your schools and hope that your passion and desire to teach and support your students continues to grow. We have enjoyed learning from you as much as we hope you enjoyed learning from us.

To the lead teachers: we have truly valued working with you in the way we have. Co-facilitating and teaching with you in various ways. Your insight and knowledge of Ugandan schools and culture were invaluable to assist us in planning and preparing lessons for our groups. We pray that you continue to be encouraged and passionate about running professional development in your schools, supporting the teachers around you and teaching the students in your class.

To the fellows_: I personally have been blessed to work with all of you. Our collaborative and supportive nature to work as one as we have has been seamless. To plan, share and support each other, both professionally and personally, during the conference, has been truly amazing. We have created memories here that we will cherish for many years to come._”

It was a magical experience for all, delivering the LRTT content to the teachers. It was an empowering process for continued personal growth and development.

Team Uganda, January 2019 at Queen Elizabeth National Park

Cultural adventures to broaden the mind

While there was much important work to be done — LRTT offered an amazing array of cultural and “touristy” experiences to make the fellowship complete.

I got lost (figuratively) in the open plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park venturing on Safari, attempting my best David Attenborough narration and tried my luck at spotting various animals minding their own business. Our next stop was Lake Bunyonyi; a small piece of paradise. A real holiday destination after all the hard work was done. We had a great boat excursion across the lake to take in the sights and sounds of the third deepest lake in the world. Back in the capital, I ventured off on a walking tour of Kampala. It was an amazing experience to be amongst the locals, taking in the sights and sounds of downtown Kampala with locals at the lead. Manoeuvring your way through the laneways and passages of the local markets makes you feel like a regular shopper (for a small moment).

LRTT provides you with experiences to grow both professionally and personally alongside memories that will last a lifetime.

John Skene

LRTT Fellow 2018 & 2019

Insta: @traveladdictteacher

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