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The Funny Story of How I became a Middle School Science Teacher…. Part 1

I have a story I have been wanting to tell you. The title is a clue, but I bet you are wondering how this came about. To be honest, I am still in shock myself. I was going to tell you this story a while ago (like months) but then things like COVID and lockdown and riots happened, and it just did not feel like the right time. Now might not be the right time, but it is vital for you to understand what has been happening for the last few months, so I want to fill you in on that too.

Go with me if you will,  to a simpler time, way back in January. I was at the end of my rope. We had been waiting and waiting to get the green light for our project. I had done all I could to keep myself busy, but I was just kind of stuck in a bad place. So one day, while I was surfing Facebook, I noticed that another local organization was asking for people to volunteer to teach English to refugees. The ad really caught my attention for several reasons. First, I was BORED and needed to DO something meaningful while we waited for our project to start. Second I was LONELY and needed connection. Finally, I was CURIOUS and wanted to learn more about the life of a refugee in Kampala. So I decided to contact the organization and volunteer. Thus started my very short stint as an English teacher….

There is another component of this story that you need to know, it will seem tangential, but it is important to the outcome. Around this time Camille started to really struggle in school. I do not want to go into too much detail, because I want to respect her privacy, but every day was becoming more of a struggle due to some pretty intense bullying and subsequent anxiety. This issue with Camille started in November. The school the girls were going to was the only one we could afford by a couple digits. We did not want to run away from the issues, but it was becoming serious. Right around the time that the situation with Camille was becoming intolerable, I got a VERY random text message. It went something like this:

Greetings, I am the director of an international school, we are desperately looking for a science teacher starting in February. Would you be interested?

Apparently the director of the organization where I had volunteered to teach English saw my biology degree when I submitted my qualifications, knew of the need for a science teacher (her kids go to the school), and passed my name on to the director of this school.

I saw that text and just laughed. I cannot even begin to describe how far OFF of my radar teaching was. Like, so so far. The farthest! In fact, I mentioned the text to my family at dinner one night as a joke. Their response SHOCKED me! To a person, they were all like, you should do it! What?!?! At the time, the position was only supposed to last from February to June. Matt’s thought was, why not? It is a short term position. The current teacher was having to leave mid-semester due to personal reasons.  Matt proposed that it would be nice to have the extra money to use for our summer trip to the States. I was dubious, but also bored, lonely, and curious, so I contacted the directors and they immediately asked me to come for an interview.

You guys….I wish you could have just experienced this craziness…and also how God was taking care of us. I was interviewed by the directors. In the interview, I told them I should be the last person they hire! I never even went to middle school, I never planned on teaching, I never, never, never. God loves that word. So, during the interview, I had a strange sense that this was His handiwork.  I had NO IDEA WHY?! I interviewed, and I realized I loved the school, which is called Acacia International School. I wanted my girls there so badly. It is such a lovely mix of missionary kids, Ugandan kids, and many others. It just felt good. It felt like a place where my girls would fit; something they have had precious little of in their lives. So after the interview and the initial tour, I agreed to meet the current teacher and spend a day with him. Then I agreed to come again… and again. Then I agreed to teach a couple of classes which led to the principle observing me, which led to another meeting with the directors. You guys, I took the job! Not just for the year, but for next year too! On the day they offered me the job, complete with free tuition for the girls, Camille came home crying from her school day.  It was obvious that for the sake of my girls and our work in Uganda, God was providing a way for them to go to Acacia.

The girls made this photo for art class. It is all the things that have been meaningful to them during the quarantine. Fun fact: the day after this picture was taken, the dogs ate both the guinea pigs. It has been THAT kind of month.

You might be wondering, “If all this happened in February, weren’t you kind of busy with starting the daycare project?” You would be 100% correct. So in February, we started our project AND I became a science teacher. Technically I am a part-time teacher… I think. I teach 6th, 7th, and 9th grade science. This is 10 hours of in-class teaching per week, but the prep work, oh my! My poor brain. I have not studied biology and basic science beyond prepping for homeschooling my girls in so many years! It was crazy hard and FUN! I could NEVER see myself as a teacher until I did, and now I really like it. Would I want this to be my career forever, no. But it is good for now. It makes us sustainable here. We would never have been able to keep Camille and Tabitha at the first school. The fact that God provided such a fantastic option at exactly the right time takes my breath away. I am going to save how this will impact our work with Walk In Love for the next blog, but don’t worry, everything is working beautifully.

Of course, as you know, nothing is simple in 2020. I fully assumed the teaching position the last week in February, not even realizing that I would only be in the actual classroom for three short weeks before the lockdown came. If you think that starting a teaching position sounds daunting, try starting a teaching position and then almost immediately transitioning to full-time online school. Acacia is one of the only schools I have heard about that kept the exact same class schedule through the lockdown. We left school on a Thursday afternoon and started online classes with the same schedule on Monday morning. This meant that the same classes I was teaching in the classroom I then had to teach online. It was HARD and so time consuming, but also good. The girls were also in online school, although they are still in elementary and those grades did more project-based learning with a looser schedule. I have been so impressed with this school community. We rallied together and made it happen. The setting was different, but I still think the quality of education was amazing.

This past Tuesday I turned in my final grades. There was much rejoicing. I did a class evaluation with all my students and received mostly positive comments. There was a lot of, “we wish we could do more lab projects”, but what can you expect with online school. Unfortunately, the rumor is that Uganda plans to keep the schools locked down until February 2021. So unless things change dramatically, it looks like we have several months of online school in our future.

This is a two part blog series, because there is just too much to say to fit it into one. How is our family doing during lockdown? What are the plans for Walk In Love Uganda? How are the centers doing in Tanzania? There are so many questions left unanswered and already too many words. Stay tuned!

Can you find Tabitha?
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Comments

Marena Sheffield
06/12/2020 at 8:52 am

Your middle school science teacher is having a good laugh this morning! Of course you aced it! I would’ve expected nothing less!



Maxine Huddleston
06/13/2020 at 6:10 am

Wow! What an adventure! I’m so happy God opened this path for you and to make it possible for the girls to be in a vmbettee place at school. I realize many of the original problems disappeared anyway with the lockdown, but so nice to anticipate a good atmosphere when they do return to school. May God continue to bless you as you continue the online venue if teaching….. I can’t imagine! I look forward to hearing the 2nd part of your story…..all that is happening with Walk In Love. May shod be with you in all your endeavors. Love, Maxine



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