I am not a teacher. I said that over and over again as I prepared for this summer. I told those who asked if I was interested in the position, I told the students and staff of Restoration Gateway (RG), and I have told myself. Each day leading up to the first day of class, I gave myself the same pep talk: "I am not a teacher, but I love to learn. There is common ground somewhere in that right?"
I have found common ground. Each day, I remind my students that we are learning alongside one another. Learning is a process that never ends; it is a choice to be made daily. We are learning more than just gardening best practices, market access and germination. We are learning about one another, how we can work together and leverage our individual strengths, and how we can empower one another to try new things.
Just as these students are being introduced to new subject matter, be it in agriculture, biology or math, I am encountering new situations. There are questions that I have not been able to answer, there are dynamics that have left me a bit puzzled, there are times that I cannot read my own handwriting on the chalkboard. I am not a teacher, but I am learning. The blank stares and awkward silences have slowly given way to nods, smiles, and hands being raised to ask and answer questions.
I have been blessed with good advice and great support. Before leaving for the summer, Lianna Scholz created a comprehensive curriculum that I am able to follow. Her guidance has been exceedingly helpful. Thank you, Lianna. Friends and family back home are quick to offer encouragement. The teachers and staff graciously answer my questions. And my students are patient, kind and willing to laugh with me (or sometimes at me).
The S1 class has been learning about landscaping. Over the past few weeks, they've planted grass in the secondary compound.
Being here in this country has humbled me immensely. I have so much to learn, and that is an exciting thing. It is my goal to impart on these students a lifelong sense of curiosity and a desire to learn more about the world we live in, not just the information they will need to pass a quiz or complete a homework assignment. There are discoveries to be made each day. With the support of the RG community in Uganda and all over the world, I wholeheartedly believe that these children will change the landscape of this country.
Gabriella Bragoli is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Bragoli is from Chico, California, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on food security and development.