Styles, and Students, and Stereotypes – Oh My!

Yesterday morning, following our daily wake-up call, a chorus of roosters mixed with hip-hop music, we had a surprise visitor! The clothing that we had custom-made with the authentic Ghanaian fabrics that we had handpicked from the market were finally ready. The unannounced arrival of the tailor and his assistant made for a hectic morning; however, we were all excited to try on our new, stylish attire, despite the fact that most required a great deal of further alterations (made even more interesting due to the language barrier). Since then, our friends have made two more surprise appearances at our home and, you can all rest assured, we can finally fit our dresses over our heads and zip them up at the sides.

As we continued with our regular teaching days, we came to realize that the lives of our students consist of problems and concerns that parallel those that we experience in America. For example, each member of Rachel H. and Kacy’s class wrote a short story about his or her village. More specifically, students discussed the prevalence of teenage pregnancies and the high dropout rates that they witness as they walk home. In Andrew’s class, unprompted students opted to debate whether improving the Heritage lunch program is necessary. These activities, which seem simplistic and ordinary to us, encouraged each class to utilize critical thinking skills and to think out of the box. Additionally, the students’ eagerness to learn has been a refreshing change from the sometimes ambivalent attitudes displayed by Americans in school.

Just as we have become more comfortable in the classroom, we have also become accustomed to some of the everyday occurrences that have become so definitive of our time in Ghana. Hearing cries of “obruni” shouted by herds of students no longer takes us by surprise; rather, we subconsciously prepare ourselves for an overwhelming cacophony of “hellos” and “what is your name?” Similarly, we no longer think twice upon throwing our used toilet paper into a waste bin, rather than discarding it into Ajumako’s poor plumbing system. Even most astonishing, three meals per day that consist of rice and pineapple have, in time, become a delicacy in our eyes and to our stomachs.

As we have become increasingly accustomed to our new Ghanaian lifestyle, we have seen our students grow more relaxed in their behavior towards us. For some, this has sown a fertile ground in which real bonds can grow between teacher and student. Others, on the other hand, still feel objectified as the “foreigner” – wealthy, white Americans. In experiencing this, some of us have learned, for the first time, what it feels like to be labeled as a stereotyped minority. Confronted with feelings of disappointment, it has become a group mission to shatter the stereotypes that exist. Ultimately, we have stressed that education, rather than skin color, is what truly matters. We sit here, writing this blog, feeling uplifted that this message resonated with our students at the end of the day.

Goin’ Kwesi Without You,
Brianna, Rachel H., Salma, and Samantha

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2 thoughts on “Styles, and Students, and Stereotypes – Oh My!

  1. Linda Bradley says:

    I want to thank you for your daily messages about your experiences. Having young people in a very different environment sharing their daily lives, their teachings (and their learning) is very special to me. I hope to visit Africa one day and your writings have made that even more of a dream. Again, thank you.

    Linda (Debra’s aunt)

  2. Rena Thompson says:

    That was a beautiful post. I can feel love, growth, acceptance, learning and a new expansiveness from all the various walks of life each person is bringing into this lovely mix.
    I am so happy for all of you. I can’t wait to hear even more upon your return. I think you should keep this blog going. It will be interesting to see your reflections when you have had more time to absorb the experience.

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