Nervous about our classes and kids, we left the guest house and questioned the direction we were walking towards the Heritage Academy. After a 15 minute walk along the 2 inch shoulder and having to hop into the bushes to avoid the road-raged drivers (there are no speed limits or driving regulations here) we saw the tall bright blue building that indicated we had actually made it.
We were welcomed by the repeated shout of “Obruni” (white person) and the widest eyes and smiles you could possibly imagine. The children were immediately herded to their appropriate classes where they sat eager to learn and were a little too polite; standing up everytime they wanted to talk and calling us “Madame” and “Sir”. As college kids, the titles were a little too formal for most of us and we insisted on them calling us by our first names.
The school itself has 1050 students on campus ranging from little ones learning the alphabet to 10th graders aiming to enroll in a university. The 9th graders live at school for the whole year intensly studying to pass their National Exams to enter High School. Because of this “dorm lifestlye” we did not see them much and we only teach 7th, 8th, and 10th graders.
We, the 3 student writers of this entry, are teaching Geography and Country-focused cultures, French, and Creative Writing. I (Rachel Jetter) was foolish to think that these students have ever seen a map of the world let alone know about continents and oceans. Therefore I and my partner Samantha decided to start the actual lessons tomorrow. Instead, today we let them be the teachers and tell us about Ghanaian culture in a casual pow-wow.
This pow-wow strategy was also successful with my (Grace) and Kelly’s French class. We began the class by asking the children what they knew about France, the French language, and French culture. Our first challenge was determining their level of French. Once we reached that point, it was exciting to learn that they did have some background and that we can act as resources for them as well as be their teachers.
My (Sarah) creative writing class was focused on telling stories. We spent the time telling stories that varied from Bible parables to traditional folklore. Each group of students differed in how thei directed the class. One class created a single story building off of eachother’s ideas while another class each told their personal favourite tales. Teaching a class based on creativity, spontinaety, and interest allowed the students to really express themselves in a way that they might not have been previously able to.
Among our group, the other class topics included public speaking, neuroscience, photography, music, anatomy, and EMT skills. The photography class in particular resulted in screaming and running children, overwhlemed with holding an actual camera, and taking pictures of every person, place, and object they could. Debra quickly learned that she will not be handing out the cameras before she gives instructions tomorrow. Overall, everyone had a positive experience with their classes and can’t wait for more.
In between classes we found it quite easy to entertain ourselves. I (Rachel) played tag and somehow ended up creating a hoard of Ninjas amonst the kids. Andrew enjoyed further explaining material from other classes, specifically photosynthesis, and even shared their lunch. I (Sarah) met another Sarah and I (Grace) learned that for the past 21 years that I have been pronouncing my name incorrectly. In case you were wondering, I now go by Adom.
In addition to our normal classes, we had Reading Periods where we led small reading groups and encouraged the kids to read outloud and think critically. Kelly and Salma in particular noticed the effectiveness of the time as they witnessed specific students making significant progress.
The day ended with half of our group mixing cement and making blocks to build more classrooms while the other half went to the Market to purchase fabric for clothing, pillows, purses, and other decor. We will all be slightly more African-looking when we see you next.
After a long day and a surprise cake from Andrew’s local friend we decided 10 pm is our bedtime. And so here we are, signing off excitedly anticipating another day at the Heritage Academy.