Have you ever thought about that teacher who changed your outlook on life and made you want to be a better student and person?
Last night, some of us gathered in the living room to speak with Oduro, Kwesi’s brother who is also a science and math teacher at Heritage Academy, to talk about the passion behind teaching. He commented on how teaching is hard work, but it is rewarding in that it will give you a long life full of pride and impact. Oduro remarked that teachers have a strong influence in everyone’s childhood and that no student should be taken for granted. All of the presidents of Ghana have been from villages, he continued, so that means that anyone from Heritage Academy has that potential. If a teacher, such as him or us, can have that impact or even turn that light bulb on for one student, perhaps change their perspective, our job is well done.
This came at a time when even in our eight days of teaching we have been struggling with our purpose as teachers. While it seems that some students really want to learn from us, learn about new cultures and different ways of thinking, some seem to also not want us here. This may seem unique to a Ghanaian classroom at the Heritage Academy, but there are students like this in every classroom all over the United States as well. There are the students that seek knowledge, understand the opportunities that education provides for them, and then there are the students who take it for granted. This has been happening at all levels from kindergarten to high school. In the kindergarten class, which Jake had the opportunity to teach today, the kids were brilliant – they were able to answer math problems that Jake didn’t learn until second or third grade. They could do division, multiplication and square roots, and seemed genuinely excited to get an answer right and would erupt in applause at any correct answer.
In the junior high school, where many of the F&M students have been spending their time, most of the students are hanging off of their seats, begging us to teach in their free periods. Since the Muhlenberg girls left today, there were a few vacancies in the schedule, so Jennie, Mike, and Lilah filled in because the kids came running out demanding us to “teach, madam, teach!” (in Michael’s case, sir, of course). These students not only spend time with us during classes, but also have been doing reading and critical thinking throughout the day. Some even read encyclopedias in their free time. We are so impressed with these students and know that they will rise to pass their national exams and go onto great things – maybe even to become Presidents of Ghana some day.
Yet, we struggle with the 10th and 11th grade classes. Many of these students haven’t grown up with the heritage mindset, built on the seven principles of the school: Knowledge, Integrity, Discipline, Respect, Responsibility, Simplicity, Hard Work. These students are ones that have come from other schools after passing the national exams and have been placed into classrooms with other students who have been at Heritage since day one. This creates a difficult dichotomy for us to deal with. There are many students who are attentive, diligent, and eager to learn, while there are some who would rather look out the window and daydream or talk. We, who walked into the classroom unaware of these struggles, now realize the level of commitment and dedication that the day in and day out teachers employ picking up the chalk every day and teaching on the front lines. All of us have developed a new found respect for teachers, both here in Ghana and back in the States, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every teacher who we have had the privilege to learn from.
Although some of us don’t plan on becoming teachers, we have all appreciated the opportunity to stand in front of the classroom and empathize with the teachers we have given headaches to. For those who plan on pursuing education as a profession, like Alexis, who already has a teaching position in a charter school in Boston lined up for when she graduates, we are grateful that they have the commitment and drive to give the opportunity of education to all youth. Despite what we do with our future, our time here has allowed us to stretch our education experiences from behind the desk to in front of it, which will be a rewarding life experience.
So we encourage all of you, dear readers, to reflect upon your own educations and thank all of the teachers who have helped turn you into the beautiful people that you are today.
Peace and Love (especially for all you teachers!),
Lilah and Jake