First Week of School


Notes from the first staff meeting (Jan  9th)

8:00 am- Meeting starts and Espérance, my headmistress, asks all the teachers to stand and introduce ourselves

8:05 am- One of the teachers brings up how the district should really start things on time and a heated debate over the effectiveness of the district’s policies is initiated

8:20 am- When asked to select a preferred day off one of the teacher proposes that with a 30 hour week there is no time for a day off and I kind of want to throw something at him

8:30 am- Luckily the other teachers decide this is not a good idea and we decide to move on to creating the schedule

8:33 am- Espérance goes to look for another blackboard to write the schedule on

8:42 am- A random student shows up with a blackboard but Espérance does not return

8:44 am- With all this down time I start to panic about the fact that I will soon have to “occupy” 150 students for 2 hours (since there are no actual classes today all the teachers will take turns “occupying” the students while the other teachers work on the schedule)

8:45 am- Espérance returns

8:50 am- Discussion starts again on how to organize the schedule

8:54 am- A system of organization is decided on but we don’t get off to a smooth start because the new teachers do not know what subjects they are supposed to teach

9:03 am- Discussion continues, I am very bored, everyone is speaking in rapid Kinyarwanda and I catch myself looking out the window far too often

9:12 am- A problem subject appears to be physics and while I had a fantastic physics teacher in high school I really hope they do not ask me to teach it!

9:17 am- On a mission to find a physics teacher Espérance starts interrogating everyone to see if they are qualified to teach it and I do my best to avoid eye contact

9:23 am- The dreaded moment arrives and I am asked to teach physics and while I feel bad that they are struggling I decline the offer

9:27 am- Espérance leaves to take a phone call and the teachers across from me huddle together and start whispering about me, apparently Jr. High never truly ends

9:45 am- Sister Martha informs me that we will return to the convent to take tea and I jump at the chance to escape this horribly boring meeting

10:02 am- Return from tea

10:05 am- Espérance attempts to make me start my occupying duty and I politely yet firmly inform her that my shift doesn’t start for another 30 minutes

10:10 am- There appears to be a general lack of focus in the room, 2 people are on their phones and 2 have left the room

10:15 am- Slightly more focused discussion begins

10:31 am- I copy the school calendar into my notebook and plan vacations for the next year while dreading the fact that I have to go entertain 120 students in four minutes

10:35 am- It is technically time for me to go but I have decided not to leave the comfort of the teachers’ room until they make me

10:37 am- Trying to act casual and avoid eye contact so they won’t realize that I should already be gone

10:45 am- Finally leave for occupying duty

12:10 am- Return to teachers’ room- very happy that my time with the students is over for today because it was pretty awkward

12:28 pm- Entire schedule is up on two blackboards and they are trying to write out the schedule for each day, it looks very complicated

12:36 pm- Meeting stops because secretary of the district visits

1:20 pm- Sister Martha and I leave to eat lunch at the convent

2:00 pm- We finish lunch and Martha tells me I can go back to my room and she will call me when they get to my part of the schedule

4:00 pm- Still no word from Martha and it is pouring rain

4:30 pm- Walk to school in the rain and the teachers are horrified and inform me that the rain will cause me to die, I do my best to assure them that I have survived 23 years of walking in the rain but they seem skeptical

4:45 pm- Finally the fill my hours in on the schedule, my name was almost last on the list so my hours are random but at least I get Friday as my day off!!

5:00 pm- Espérance informs the teachers that they must change one of my days because I cannot start teaching at 7am because it is not a “comfortable” hour for teaching- I think the teacher in charge of the schedule is annoyed (I would be as well) but Espérance insists

5:33pm- The school secretary tries to give me money as “meeting day bonus” and I have to tell her that Peace Corps Volunteers are forbidden to accept money and she doesn’t really understand and gives me a weird look

6:00pm- Finally the meeting is finished. I am exhausted and I cannot imagine how the other teachers feel because they were at the school all day and never left to eat or rest

* Meetings in Rwanda are always crazy like this, no sense of organization and they last forever. If you ever go to one I suggest you bring a book!


Teaching has been an interesting experience so far, especially the first week. Last week was pretty frustrating because the schedule was chaotic and the students weren’t very focused but this week has been so much better! The students are really excited to learn English and I enjoy teaching them.

* At the moment my internet connection is not fast enough to load pictures but I am headed into Kigali on Friday so I will post lots of pictures then!


4 responses »

  1. dear sounds so exciting and challenging….we look forward to all your stories and the wonderful talent you have at giving each entry your personal humor and love…we miss you dearly and look forward to hearing and seeing more of your adventures in this far off land…love grammy and kym …ps xmas box coming

  2. English Dept. meetings are the opposite, with everyone wanting to move on super-quickly and not getting anywhere! I wish you could take minutes at everything I attend.

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