Headstands, Happy Feet and Honest Reflection

Today we continued teaching, measuring height and weight, and distributing shoes. We experienced a wide range of highs today, including more pen pal requests, some great questions during lessons, and steady progress during reading periods. Jennie had a great time teaching 9th grade anatomy, and Jake and Teresa were impressed by a creative writing story including a full plot and moral. Anne had success introducing a new game into her French class, and Mike saw some great questions during lecture in both of his classes. We also had the opportunity to match some kids with shoes that fit well, and it was great to see how happy it made them.

Unfortunately, we were not able to give every student who got measured a pair of shoes that fit. We brought a lot of donated shoes, but the sizes were not distributed according to the needs of the kids at Heritage. We ended up with a lot of very small women’s sizes and a lot of very large men’s sizes, but most of the students needed something in the middle. It was hard to give kids the option of taking a pair that looked like boats on their feet or waiting until February, when a new group will come with more donations. Some kids very visibly sad, some were visibly frustrated, and it was difficult for us to feel so powerless. A few students kept looking at us expectantly as if we could pull out a perfect size from behind our box, but there really wasn’t anything we could do. That experience was a low for most of us today.

During our nightly reflection sessions, Lilah asked us why we were here. We shared tons of different ideas. We definitely had a few selfish reasons, primary among them wanting to take advantage of the chance to see a new country and get a taste of a new culture. Several of us also jumped at the chance to teach. Alexis and Jake both see themselves as future teachers, while Greg and Sydney wanted to challenge themselves by attempting to lead a classroom. A lot of us also wanted to spend our winter breaks doing something worthwhile, and teaching things we’re passionate about seemed like a great way to do this.

A couple of us did question how much of an impact we have had here. We know that we will all leave with a lot of wonderful personal experiences that will stay with us for a long time, but a few of us did wonder how beneficial this trip has been for our students. We have all noticed how difficult it is to teach, and with minimal practice in classrooms, we know that we are still learning ourselves.

Being from Ghana, Anita has a more unique view of our experience so far at Heritage. Anita had never heard of Heritage before coming to F&M, so she was interested to see what the school was like. She, along with some of the rest of us, was wondering how much impact we could really have in 8 days, considering most of the things we are teaching don’t come up on the national exams that the students are preparing for. She has been surprised by the contrast between the schools she went to in Accra, the country’s capital, and Heritage, a rural school. With such a divide so clear, it has become even more apparent how important education is for all students because it is the best way to close this gap in the future.

To lighten the mood a little bit, a fun moment for everyone today was watching some of the younger boys do headstands in the middle of the grass at the end of our reading period. The boys were able to hold headstands far longer than Lilah, our resident yogi. We wished the girls could have participated too, but their skirts made it difficult to try the pose decently. They were still excited to help count the seconds out loud for their classmates, especially because one boy reached 100 seconds. Everyone walked away laughing and smiling.

We will all continue to think about why we are here, and we hope to keep this dialogue open.

Kate, Anita, and Alexis

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4 thoughts on “Headstands, Happy Feet and Honest Reflection

  1. jduckloe says:

    Terrific experiences for you all. We all benefit from improving understanding of other people’s ways of life. Can’t believe both our children will be in Ghana for the next few days. What a coincidence. Sorry you won’t cross paths. Greg Duckloe’s sister is leaving Boston tonight with the Babson College crew. Follow @aduckloe on twitter #Ghana2013 and @dhanno, the Dean heading up the trip. Maybe Heritage Academy would be interested in the business plan competition Babson is doing.

  2. Jean waligoske says:

    Wish there were easy answers to the struggle. Taking care of today is the best we can do. Thank you, all of you, for taking care of this day, at Heritage Academy, in Ghana, Africa.

  3. Ron Kline says:

    It seems like you have all experienced a small taste of just how daunting the life of Aid workers and others trying to help in underdeveloped countries must be. Maybe a few weeks is just a small step in making a difference, but if all the small steps are never taken, they will never add up to the big strides. Teresa – looking forward to seeing your headstand skills, and hearing more about the trip.

  4. Caren Yglesias says:

    All your stories are so fascinating, and I applaud your open hearts and willing hands. Your definition of “we” will never be the same. Where there is hope, there is thirst. Thanks to you all for sharing yourselves, your time and your humanity.

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