A Few Frames: A Glimpse of Work Life

I haven’t posted in a long time, a combination of too many projects and continued adjustment to this new city. So, to restart my creativity, I offer a few photos of recent life (so at least my grandmother will know that I’m doing ok).

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Working with Young Emerging Scholars (YES) at the Embassy library. These twelve kids were chosen out of nearly 800. In the YES program, funded by EducationUSA, they receive standardised test prep (via yours truly) and help with applications. Applying to U.S. universities is prohibitive to a majority of Rwandans I’ve encountered: the $100+ exam costs and application fees equal more than a few months’ wages. The kids in this program are extremely bright and some of the top students in the country. 

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Nadine and Natasha practice delivering their responses to TOEFL speaking questions. 

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Robert practices his speaking response with no partner, only the window. The students have to get comfortable with the awkward situation of talking to themselves in a room full of test-takers doing the same thing… So they practice by all talking at the same time and conversing with windows and bookcases.

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Another day, another group of students. These girls are part of Akilah Women’s Institute, a certificate program that prepares women for work environments in fields like IT, Hospitality, and Leadership. I worked with the other two Fellows and a Fulbright ETA to do a three day workshop on academic honesty.  

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The event was inspired by my previous life as a pre-university teacher in the U.S.: students engage in activities to better understand plagiarism (and, in this case, practice a variety of techniques for paraphrasing) and then sign a pledge. Our pledge was a simple one: “My work represents me.” More than two hundred  women students added their name and thumbprint. 

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With my fellow Fellows at the event. Jessica insisted I be in the middle. She works with a university in the East; Robert works with the Association of Teachers of English in Rwanda, and he’s my upstairs neighbour. 

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Another day, another event. Another great program sponsored by the U.S. embassy is the Access Microscholarship Program – a weekend English and culture class that helps groups of students improve their English in a communicative environment for two year class groups. It’s a public diplomacy offering: to win hearts and minds. In Africa, as in many places throughout the world, you can win both via language teaching. 

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The conference helped orient new Access teachers on the first day. Here they are at the Embassy in Kigali, in a digital video conference with my supervisor, the Regional English Language Office.

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I’m looking forward to January, when I will host a week-long training with these teachers for the curriculum I wrote, which focuses on teaching values (such as civic responsibility, compassion, care for the environment) through the narratives of Americans like John Muir, MLK, Susan La Felsche Picotte, Jane Addams, and eight others. 

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Day 2: More than three hundred Access students and alumni gather to talk about possibilities after Access and hear from inspiring young Rwandans, including a 24 year-old who created Rwanda’s second largest media site and Rwanda’s first fashion designer. 

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And here I am again with my Fellow – despite the chaos of the past two months, I appreciate that for all of this, I am not alone. 

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