I asked my driver, Ali, from Nairobi to Daraja Academy in Nanyuki. “Did you just say, ‘zebras’?” Yes, he had. They were gathered together, a group of 10 or so, off on the left side of the road in the brush. I am wondering to myself right now, How do you say “a group of zebras”? There has to be a word that captures movement, wonder, the nuance of this unfamiliar.
This is a distraction.
Let me write about what I am here.
This past academic year I received a fellowship for teaching, research, and service to work in collaboration with teachers at Daraja Academy. I had met Jenni and Jason Doherty, the founders, a few months back at Saint Mary’s College of California. They were looking for someone with a background in problem based learning and educational technology integration, two areas that I deeply love. Over the months we corresponded; I wrote and got a grant to come; and here I am ready to learn and, perhaps, to teach. I imagine that I will do more support than I will be teaching.
The driver last night, Peter, who picked me up from the airport asked me about my work in education. When I told him about my thoughts, that I will learn far more than I teach, he said that I will teach more than I learn. In talking with Stephen, the volunteer coordinator, today, he said that my schedule has to be flexible. That’s more of what I expected, flexibility, to respond to whatever needs I can support directly and also support through collaboration when that is the best option. Peter last night asked me what I expected for Kenya. I said, I expected to see acacia trees. He quickly pointed one out. Expectation met. I thought that I had no others, but even in writing this blog, I realize that I had a different expectation for the educational system and the school itself. I expected distance, that people would have to warm up to me, that they would see me with distrust, and that this distancing would also be replicated in the classroom setting. So far, this has not been the case. I have been warmly greeted from the moment of my arrival at the school, meeting within my first twenty minutes the three administrators for the school and several of staff personnel. Within an hour, I have already met three students. I was even told that Stephen would match me with a “family” as the young women are themselves grouped in “families” of 6-8 students; they include a “grandmother”, “mother”, “auntie”, and “sisters”, assigned by age.
More later, but this is already far beyond any expectations I ever had.
Zebras were a moment of wonder. This educational experience may be a lifetime of it.