Saturday, June 28, 2014

A summary of some of my projects

April through June Activity Summary

My work continues in a variety of areas—one significant difference is that students are no longer participating in School Based Studies so that supervisory work is finished.  However, I continue to work with students in the field by supporting their research and development as teachers in an after school program in Katutura.

Practical Class:  Until the semester finished on May 23, I worked weekly with a third year group on the Khomasdal Campus with their Environmental Studies Practical.  I was hoping to stay with this group all year, and then next year in January when they are begin their 12 week teaching practice so I can continue to support and evaluate their teaching.  However, I believe Dr. Trudie Frindt will no longer be their instructor, so I will need to check with the faculty member teaching that group in semester 2 if she would like me to support her in the practical part of the class.

UNESCO/CFIT (Chinese funds in trust) research project:  After working with the research group and finalizing all field documents, Trudie Frindt and I provided instructions for the research as one part of a short video that provides background information for all researchers.  I will be making my first visit to Tsumkwe to observe at a school there the last week in June.

Mentoring Project:  After meeting with Dr. John Nyambe (Continuing Professional Development) and Dr. Charmaine Villet, we have a detailed plan to move forward with the Mentoring program.  We have formed a steering committee with educators from UNAM, CPD, NIED, and the Ministry of Education—(Program Quality Assurance). I have decided that dinner meetings funded with the Fulbright food allowance are an easy way to bring everyone together.  At this time all participants are reviewing documents from NIED and at our next meeting will identify elements they believe are necessary in a credit based program for mentors.  The goal is to develop mentors who will mentor pre-service teachers during their school based study experiences and then continue the mentoring process during the first two years of teaching. 

Program Development for Diploma Course:
I have participated and supported the Faculty of Education in the development of a Diploma Course in Junior Primary Education.  In April we spent a full weekend working as a group, then had our own work to develop Exit Learning Outcomes for the courses, followed by another full day workshop.  We also discussed the program at the Faculty Board Meeting in June.  Juanita Moller and Charlotte Keyter—two key players have asked me to review the almost completed document and so I am currently half way through the document and will provide my feedback prior to the early July meeting to create a final document.

Student Research Support:  I have been working with 4th year students who are specializing in the pre- and lower primary area.  All of these students are required to conduct research and so I have been working during the class break on their projects.  These are students who are interested in learning how an after school program can support student learning.  I have taken them to an after school center in Katutura and facilitated their work in this after school program. 

Additional Activity:
·      Participated in the YALI orientation for the Namibia group leaving for the United States.  I provided insight about professor expectations to the group.  Additionally, as a result of talk with the participants I met with one of the participants about education in the US, and responded to questions related to pursuing Ph.D. work.  I recommended some action steps and we will meet again when she returns.
·      I have worked with two faculty members from my department with their literature search related to doctoral research.  Both were feeling challenged with finding recent sources, so in each case we met for a couple of hours at my house and used my university’s library resources to find appropriate materials.  One of the benefits to them was that PLU will send electronic files of articles, and if our library doesn’t have them, then they will request from another library and have them sent electronically to me.  I know that isn’t a sustainable way to do research, but both faculty members felt they were able to move forward and not be concerned about navigating UNAM’s library.   
·      Submitted a workshop proposal for the Educator’s conference in September that connects research related to learning to college teacher.  I conducted a similar workshop at my university and I will see if this is something the organizing committee believes will fit into the conference.
·      Met with the principal at A.I Steenkamp, which is a school in Katutura that is connected to PLU’s education program.  She wondered if I would consider doing a classroom management workshop, and when we met to discuss what this would look like, I said yes to four 2 hour workshops between now and July 12.

Catching up after a long pause

I know it has been a while since I have posted anything on the blog. I have been providing pictures on Facebook, and decided there are some people I can reach this way and share some of my daily live here in Namibia.
      I am involved in a variety of projects, plus had a busy 11 days with Ashley, my former student who finished her first year of teaching in Spain and a group of faculty, staff and students from my university were here for 3 weeks filming a documentary and that carved away at some free time.  I am past my halfway point and so I completed a summary for the embassy—it really only includes April-June, because at the beginning I would provides updates about every 6 weeks.  I will include my work update on another entry, so those of you who are enjoying all my “fun” posts on Facebook  will know the other side of my life here.
            This week I completed 2 of the 4 classroom management workshops at a school in Katutura.  I know the first day many of the teachers weren’t too happy about the principal’s mandate to attend an after school session.  I told them the exit slip was a ticket out the door, and only 2 people told me they just couldn’t respond—would need to think about the prompts—“Describe a new insight for you from today related to classroom management” and “Write any questions or concerns you want me to address tomorrow.” I know they complete evaluations after some professional development workshops, but I believe saying it was a ticket out the door was a new concept for them.  By Day 2, I had 100% completion!  It was sweet because about 6 teachers commented positively on the presentation, including a teacher I was pretty sure didn’t want to be there—chose to sat in the back corner farthest from me on the first day.  On the second day she was much closer. Management is challenging for a lot of teachers, especially is small classrooms with often 40 learners. After spending time yesterday talking about positive connections with students as a strategy for positive classroom management, and then on an exit slip the majority of teachers saying they value positive connections with students, I feel that even if they make one change, there might be a benefit and make teaching less stressful.  I offered to come into their classrooms, observe and give feedback all confidentially, and about 8 or 10 out of the 30 teachers took my card, so we will see what happens.  I will finish up the workshop July 8 and 9th before family arrives.
            This Sunday-Friday, I go to Tsumkwe in the eastern part of the country.  It is a region of the San people and along with my Dean I will be spending a week observing pre and lower primary (K-2) classrooms. Because instruction is in the language of the San people, we will also have two interpreters.  I am excited about seeing a totally new area of Namibia.  This research trip is part of the large research project funded by UNESCO and the Chines Funds in Trust.  We are looking a pre and lower primary education at schools in all 14 regions of Namibia, and after collecting data in June and July will begin to identify strengths and needs, and from there begin to develop ways to increase the quality of education at the lower grades.
            Lindsey will be on her own this week—Tony went to Wales to visit family and returns the following week.  She will have an automatic car to get around.  I know she will be fine on the left hand side of the road—she really attends to what I am doing, but even with that, she has Pam, one of my colleagues, and a friend from the Embassy watching out for her.  She gets to help at the Embassy’s 3rd of July event so that will be nice for her.  On Tuesday she was part of the reception committee at the UN that greeted all the dignitaries arriving for the visit of Ban Ki-moon and the Namibian president.  What an experience for her!  She got to see and meet a variety of people and learned that some ambassadors like to be greeted formally with the title “Your Excellency.” How she learned that makes for a good story—one that is hers to tell.
So this update is getting to be long.  One more paragraph about the upcoming family visit. Laura  (niece) and Tony arrive on July 11th, and then Ann (sister) and Andrew (son) arrive on July 13th.  We will have a packed week with visits to Erindi for animal viewing, and Sossusvlei for dune climbing at dawn.  Andrew will be performing magic at the National Theater of Namibia (NTN) on Saturday July 19th.  It’s a bigger event than we thought.  I had talked to people at the Embassy about Andrew performing and apparently when they contacted the NTN and showed his website, the idea grew quickly from a show perhaps at the American Cultural Center to a matinee with tickets being sold by CompuServe—the Namibian/South African equivalent to Ticket Master.  Tickets are US$3.00 (children) and US 6.00 (adults).  The cost might be a luxury for some children and families so my sisters and I have decided to sponsor 40+ kids from the after school centre in Katutura.    
            As you can see, our experiences continue to be positive. Lindsey does miss her friends and is looking forward to her July/August visit to CA and WA to attend two weddings and connect with family and friends. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A School Visit

Here are some photos from my visit to Windhoek's School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing*.  I observed 2 UNAM student teachers and even though I don't understand sign language I could see a clear lesson sequence with a variety of learning opportunities for the learners. The cooperating teacher translated for me but there were times the content was clear.  I was able to provide feedback about consistently maximizing engagement, challenging learners and making sure the assessment matched the objective--common improvement themes for teachers in the US.  At the end of the lesson I gave both classes NYPD pencils and the teachers received pens with New York City Landmarks. Lots of smiles and the sign for thank you--I learned how to sign "You're welcome."  When I go into town tomorrow I am going to print the class picture for the Grade 2 learners--I know that will be a novelty for them.  Also, all but one of the learners stay in the hostel so I will make sure they have their own copy to put over their bed or in a notebook. 
 *The majority of the learners stay in the hostel behind the school which means that these children, starting with Pre-K board at the school.  The older ones help the younger students with homework and if you look carefully on the picture of the 2 boys, you will see their initials embroidered on their school uniform.  I know many of the teachers stay at the hostel with the learners--extra income and  I don't know if the children get to go home on weekends.  There is one other school for children with hearing impairments and that is up north and proximity determines which school you attend.

Grade 2 Learners with their student teacher and her cooperating teacher

Prayers before the morning break

Morning break

Great communication with him pointing to his gap and my camera.  He loved seeing the picture on the camera screen.

Learners would pop in for a picture

The road was blocked, so I had to follow the red and white boundary on a dirt road

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Birthday, Valentines and weekend guests

The week started out with my birthday, which always seems spring up on me because of the J-term timing at PLU.  Even though we weren’t officially involved in a J-term program, the 10th once again came quickly.  It was easy for me to remember the start of UNAM's semester!   I attended the opening ceremony on the Khomasdal campus the morning of February 10.  Trudie (my grant writing colleague) picked me up and I was genuinely surprised that she brought me a gift of Chanel bath oil.  What a fun start to the day.  At the opening session there was a motivational speaker who had been at the university and survived two cancer battles, and he attributes that to faith and a positive attitude.  He was a great speaker so that was fun.  I was struck by the first half hour of the program though.  The Khomasdal chapter of Crusaders for Christ started off the program.  The student leading things was probably a 4th year student and spoke to the students about finding Christ and letting Him guide you during difficult times.  The faculty advisor spoke about finding Christ, and a second or third year student gave a testimony about how his life changed once he found Christ.  Although I am more accustomed to integration of religion and school here in Namibia, I still find it fascinating that the Crusaders for Christ have the first 30 minutes of a 5 day orientation schedule for first year students.  The message is positive and supportive and has an explicit emphasis on Jesus Christ.    I think because of our clear separation of church and state, I will never be totally comfortable with this emphasis.  I realize that is a Western Perspective that will be difficult for me to lose. 

Campus Crusaders for Christ opening

Dr. Botes, Motivational Speaker with student moderator behind

After an afternoon of making sure I finished a blog entry, Lindsey, Tony and I went out to dinner at a restaurant called O’Portuga.  Tony’s entrée of Norwegian Salmon was outstanding.  Lindsey and I shared steak and shrimp and we were a bit envious of Tony’s choice, but he shared.  While we waited for dinner and enjoyed a glass of South African  wine, Tony and Lindsey gave me some hand painted dishes we had seen on one of excursions to town.  They had done some shopping while I was at school.  Lindsey had baked me a cake with chocolate icing  so we didn’t need dessert at the restaurant. 
A match was my candle--great improvisation

My new fruit bowl that I enjoy daily
 When we got home Lindsey received an email that was the best ending to my birthday. She heard that UNAIDS had accepted her for an internship in their office.  On Thursday of the previous week, she had met with the Director of UNFPA (UN Population Fund) to talk about the possibility of an internship with a UN organization.  Grace talked to her about a possibility with UNAIDS and Lindsey was expecting to meeting with the director, not being offered an internship position.  We all were so excited and know she will gain lots of experience, plus she will be involved in a variety of interesting projects.  Her supervisor is from Palo Alto and went to a rival high school and when Lindsey met her on Thursday talked about her energy and interesting background, so I am sure it will be an interesting year.

I was glad to be able to schedule a meeting with my Dean (Charmaine) to talk about delving into the New Teacher project.  Charmaine was able to give me a lot more information about the different players. NIED (National Institute of Educational Development) has developed a program, but the University doesn’t know much about the program.  NIED is a branch of the Ministry of Education and it was the Ministry as part of their charge related to education policy by the end of 2014, included the need to have a national program for new teachers.  I was trying to figure out the University’s role in fulfilling the Educational Policy charge and Charmaine as dean, is part of a group of educators that are associated with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders.  So our plan was that Charmaine would write an introductory letter on my behalf to all those involved in new teacher development.  I have followed up with my own email and are still waiting to hear back.  I will follow up with phone calls in the middle of the week. 
On Wednesday I had an absolutely wonderful meeting with  the person who has been my Fulbright contact in Namibia and is a Senior Program Officer at the American Cultural Center.  We had a couple of business issues to discuss and then the rest of our 90 minute lunch was talking about issues related to Namibia.  He was one of the 100 Namibians who was sponsored by the Lutheran Church and educated at US universities.  I know Edwin and Louise graduated from PLU and see them regularly when I am in Namibia.  I hadn't met another Lutheran Church sponsored US educated so it was fun to chat with him about his experiences at a rival California Lutheran School.  For him it was an experience that allowed him to really understand himself and persevere. We also talked about racial issues in Namibia and although there has been a lot of progress since independence, there are still racial issues that impact Black Namibians.  These are still difficult issues to talk about in Namibia. I compare that to our country—finally we enacted the Civil Rights Act in 1963, so our country still had separate laws and standards based on skin color for a long time after the Civil War, and there are areas, especially with regards to education, access and achievement and poverty in the US where skin color plays a significant role. 
Valentines Day is a big deal in Namibia.  Someone explained that Namibia has taken holidays from America and then create their own expanded version of the holiday.  In the schools that means that it is a casual dress day for students—the have to pay N$5.00 (45 cents at current exchange rate) to not be in uniform.  So far I haven’t been able to ascertain how that money is used—hopefully something that benefits the kids.  For us, it was a quiet morning and resting up was important because the Tjiramba kids (9,9.5 and 11) were arriving at 2:00 (that will be a separate entry).  We were invited to a Valentines’ Day Braai at Priscilla’s house—she was hosting an event for the 3 Fulbrighters (2 on  student awards and me) and then people from the Embassy.  She and her husband, both directors of different areas for the Embassy have a great house on the other side of Windhoek.  Apparently they don’t have a choice of housing if they work at the Embassy but I imagine the selection of homes varies and are dependent on timing (what’s available) and ranking.  Priscilla has a flair for decorating and she has a variety of artifacts from her different postings. I know she and her husband are happy with the house and location.  Anyway, Priscilla had two Namibian cooks preparing meat for the Braai and one of her colleagues commented she had already become a Namibian because of the number of different meats being prepared (2 kinds of beef, lamb, pork ribs, ostrich, and chicken).  Additionally there were additional US flavors like grilled mushrooms, beans, tortillas, a Greek salad and other choices.  When I saw the spread on two tables I wondered a bit about my First Friday, but then know Lindsey and I are preparing food on our own for a different crowd. 

Ready for the evening Braai

            Lindsey believes I am too indulging with my Namibian “nieces and nephew” and I probably am, but by the end of the weekend I was good at saying “no” to continuous treats, loud volume on the TV, and screen time.  We played lots of games together, did Valentines arts and craft, did the short hike at Daan Viljoen and managed to finish weekend homework. The kids were great and we stayed busy with  hiking, walking to the store, card games, homework and Bananagrams.

The Weekend with
Dolly, Uterera and Jejamaiye

Dolly, posing for the camera
Yeah, made it to the top!
Jejamaiye with Cleo

Early riser and independent

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meeting Americans in Namibia

(I still don't totally have a hang of how to place pictures, but there are a variety of pictures--Petrine, a young UNAM law graduate who we met at J-burg airport offered to take pictures with my camera so thanks to her, we have lots of photos)
My time here in Namibia feels different from my first visit on a Fulbright-Hays travel seminar and my subsequent visits on the J-term program with PLU students. I have a commitment to the University of Namibia (UNAM) Faculty of Education and so my early interactions are learning about the Namibian higher education system and finding footing with projects and teaching opportunities for pre-service teachers.  The other part of the Fulbright that took me a couple of weeks to understand is the relationship between my commitment to UNAM and the US Embassy and American Cultural Center. I am here to conduct research and work with UNAM Faculty of Education.  The state department side plays a supportive role--they are involved in Namibia in a way that foreign embassies support their host country, and so I am able to bounce ideas off people in the embassy, offer support to their projects and learn from them.

Ready for the Embassy

 And finally, we had our First Friday: Tastes from the US event.  I ended up cooking more food than necessary, but that was fine because I invited the PLU students over the following night for left overs.  I believe there were about 25 people—adults and children that were here.  It was a great blend of Namibians and Americans.  There were groups of people who knew each other and chatted for a while to those they knew and then when we ate there was a lot of mixing of conversations.  It was great to know I was facilitating something that everyone was enjoying.   In addition to the food and conversation, just thought I would mention that my margaritas were a great hit.  We finished off 3 pitchers!  I ended up freezing margarita mixes in Ziploc bags, and then added soda water, tequila, limes and a light beer. 

In addition to the great feel of the evening, my other highlight was sitting outside and chatting over a glass of wine with people from the university and people from the embassy.  I got to relax a bit because everyone else had left, and although I can’t recall all the conversation details, it was varied, informative and very easy.  When the last person left at 10:30, Tony, Lindsey and I spent over an hour cleaning up, but it was such a fabulous evening I felt wired and awake to get the job done.

Petrine and Lindsey--I wanted some photographs with her.

Finally a chance to eat!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A delayed description of Week 2

 I first attempted to post this blog entry a week ago and now a week later, I have found time to catch up on my second week, even though we just completed our third week here.  I am busy, find lots to keep me busy and this long entry will give you some insight into my first week of being at University of Namibia (UNAM).  A preview of Week 3 highlights include a school visit, and the weeks' focus of interacting with people from the Embassy and the inaugural First Friday: Tastes from the US event.
Taco Assembling
Taco feast

At work

Summary of Week 2 January 27 – February 2, 2014
 I realize a week has gone by since I last posted on the blog.  It is interesting that my time does get taken up with different things.  On Tuesday and Thursday I had meetings with the faculty at UNAM—start of the school year type meetings, and I came home feeling exhausted.  I wanted to write, just as a way of processing and managed to write out bullets and thoughts just so I wouldn’t forget, but didn’t have time to pull everything into cohesive writing. I am going to try a new strategy this week—bullet the highlights of the week, provide a bit of reflective thinking to give you deeper insight into part of my life here in Windhoek. 

Week Highlights:
Monday Night Dinner and Wine Bar with terrific rain storm that forced everyone to move inside. We discovered the traditional South African dessert of Malva Pudding and custard—our new favorite.

Sounds of the rain if the video posts.

Tuesday: Opening Tea and Faculty Meetings for the Khomasdal Campus, evening meal with Paula, Steve, Emmy and Edwin at Stellenbosch Brewery. 
The Khomasdal campus has a faculty between 30 and 35.  Emma is director of the campus and Donovan is the Associate Dean who is part of the Physical Education faculty.  The two of them were in charge of the meeting that lasted for about an hour.  I was surprised to learn that what we consider to be normal for the starting of the year, like a set schedule (known here as a timetable) teaching responsibilities, and number of students, doesn’t have the same sense in Namibia.  A committee was finalizing the timetable and wanted input from the faculty, and because of some staffing issues at a new campus, some of the faculty were being pulled away from the Khomasdal campus throughout the semester to teach on the new southern campus.  With two weeks left before the start of the school year, students were still registering for college.  This happens in part because of later results for Grade 12.  There is a set passing score required for college entrance, and those tests are “written” as late as the first week in December, so some students don’t learn until late January if they will be accepted to UNAM.   So while there were pieces that felt so different from the beginning of our school year, I also realized the Namibian school system of finishing up just before an extended summer/Christmas break and many people going out of the city to farms in various parts of the country impacts the details that are unattended until after the holidays. 

Stellenbosch Brewery will be the place to go when we are craving hamburger and fries (Lindsey and Paula ordered that). I had an incredibly tasty and tender lamb shank.  I also learned that lamb shank was the meat option for women in the Herero culture.  It was considered a lower cut of meat, and really wasn’t one fit for a male adult, so it was like a left over cut, and woman got the “leftovers.”  This led to an interesting discussion of family lines in the Herero culture—don’t know if I have it totally correct, but with family matters, the matriarchal line is followed.  The patriarchal line deals with land, livestock and other family matters on the side of men.  It was a bit hard to follow, but if I as a female, am having problems with a child or husband, any uncle on the mother’s side would intervene and support me.  All of the land that is owned follows lines from the father’s side, so that affects inheritance.  I think I will learn and understand more as time goes on.  For example, I was talking with the administrative assistant for the American Cultural Center.  She is from Buffalo and is married to a Herero man.  She was talking to me about her husband’s nephew, and then added but in the Herero culture he is really considered my son, because his dad and my husband are brothers.  This explains part of the extended family structure that is prevalent in Namibia.

Wednesday: Dinner with PLU group and Education Dean and Faculty
I did a practice run for my First Friday gathering.  We had the students from PLU and 5 faculty from UNAM here.  There was lots of energy in the room and for a while the adults sat around the table talking and then there was more mixing and one of the younger faculty members who had studied in the US, taught at Pioneers Boys’ School (where we have 2 student teachers) became engaged in a great school conversation.  My colleague Juanita’s son Dave, also talked to the students about different activities in Namibia.  I believe the conversation started around skydiving and the fact that four from Paula’s group had gone skydiving while in the coastal town of Swakopmund on their first weekend excursion.
Lindsey, Paula and 2 UNAM Faculty

PLU group

Thursday: Faculty of Education meeting
Thursday’s all day meeting was held at Arebusch, a pleasant conference center near the university that comfortably accommodated the 70 members who attended.  All of the education faculty from the main campus and Khomasdal were required to attend, and representatives also came from the other three campuses. Donovan Zealand, who has been Tony’s contact with issues related to Exercise Science, is the Deputy Dean and was the “Master of Ceremonies.”  When he initiated a go around introduction of the large group, he was voted down.  Many from the group said it would take too long, so he abandoned that idea.  However he asked Juanita to introduce me to the group and explain my role.  Although I don’t really like drawing attention to myself that way, I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk with different people at the break. I talked with Charlotte who has a curriculum policy role in the university.  It seems her role at UNAM is similar to my role on the Educational Policy Committee last year at PLU. I also talked with Pam and Caroline who are passionate about strengthening “school based studies” so that students are well supervised and their classroom experiences in the schools reflect what they are learning in the university classroom.  This sounded so familiar to discussions related to the practicum and student teaching part of our program at PLU.
At the meeting, the Dean talked about the responsibilities of faculty regarding teaching and mentoring students.  The theme of her introduction highlighted the importance of being a faculty member and supporting the development of teachers.  After her introduction, the Heads of Departments (HOD) for the different divisions gave reports from outside moderators.  This is an interesting practice— the university hires an outside expert to evaluate final exam papers for 2nd and 4th year students.  These experts read the exam questions and student responses and then provide feedback about the quality of the questions and the student responses.  It was interesting to hear these issues reported in an open and public manner.   At PLU, faculty may talk among themselves about easy or difficult final exams, and they may also talk more privately with others about the type of feedback given to students, but it isn’t openly discussed at faculty meetings--these types of discussions would be viewed as infringing on the autonomy of teachers.  It is an interesting difference.  In trying to figure out the nature of this difference because a “cultural difference” didn’t quite seem right, I have talked to my HOD and believe part of the reason rationale for outside moderators and public sharing of information is to help the faculty develop a mindset of continuous improvement.  Many of the education faculty taught before there were country wide standards for education and so there are many opportunities that support professional development.  The start of the school year meetings at the School level seem to have a specific content focus, and the small group discussions are related to responding to the feedback with a plan for the upcoming year.  So everyone acquired a sense of what is happening in the seven different departments in the “Faculty (School) of Education.”  The broad morning discussions of shared feedback, philosophy of teaching and learning, assessment strategies and curriculum redesign seemed to supports the focus of creating a more connected Faculty (School) of Education.  In the afternoon, department groups were able to discuss specific plans for the new year.  And for those of you interested, these departments include:. Educational Psychology and Inclusive Education, Early Childhood and Lower Primary, Math, Science and Sport Education, Language, Humanities and Commerce, Education Foundations and Management, Life-Long Learning and Community Education, Curriculum Instruction and Assessment Studies and School Based Studies