Today was our first day of teaching at Heritage. Our daily schedule consists of a mixture of teaching our individual subjects and holding small reading groups. The classes we teach range from 7th graders to 11th graders, while the reading groups include students of all ages.
Our initial reactions to the atmosphere at Heritage were positive. There is a clear sense of community within the structure of the school. The staff members not only have relationships with the children but also communicate openly with other staff. For example, DeGraft, the school’s headmaster, can be seen socializing with the kitchen staff, as well as taking care of all the details that contribute to helping Heritage run smoothly. One of the teachers sat with us (Molly and Chloe) during a free period and discussed different aspect of the business world in Ghana, as well as the culture of homosexuality in this country. His curiosity about our perspectives on education and his clear love of learning made the conversation really open and culturally enlightening.
The students have a lot of responsibilities in the maintenance of campus procedures and aesthetics. For example, students have various tasks ranging from coming early to school to sweep the floors of the classrooms, to alerting the teachers when each period is over. The highest achieving students act as prefects of the school and help the teachers to keep the classroom in line. It is clear that for both the staff and students, Heritage is a place that is enjoyed and appreciated.
After working hard on preparing our lesson plans and bouncing ideas off each other, we were excited to implement our lesson plans in a real classroom setting. Our first day experiences ranged significantly, including both highs and lows. One factor that contributed to the differing experiences was age. As a whole, our group felt that the older classes were much harder to engage. During reflection we brainstormed ways to connect with these students and created ways to more effectively manage the classroom and convey our course material. Generally, the younger students were more enthusiastic and receptive of our material. These interactions helped sustain us through a long day of trial and error. We also realized that while the majority of these kids do speak English quite well, it is still very much their second language. We all found that speaking extraordinarily slow and in the simplest language we could think of was important in conveying our lessons.
Regardless of the students’ appreciation of the class content on this first day, all of the students expressed kindness and genuine intrigue into us as people, and we found ourselves answering questions about our lives at home and building connections almost right away with the kids. It was a lot of fun to start to get to know the students, and we look forward to spending even more time interacting with and learning from them.
We are finding that it is hard to balance our prior expectations with the reality of the constraints of this trip. Accepting our limited role here and the way that it affects how the students perceive us has been a challenge. An important understanding we are working through is that the immediate effects of our work may not be apparent in a tangible way. We are all coming to terms with the fact that this experience may play a greater role in shaping our own personal identities and ideas about service than the lives of the students at Heritage due to our limited time here. During our discussion, we realized just how important it is that we don’t let this minimize the significance of our journey in Ghana. Each of us is in the process of realizing what this experience will mean to us, and it is something we will continue to reflect on.
We are eager to return to the classroom tomorrow, and hopefully we will be able to address our own challenges and continue to foster a positive learning experience for the students. Thanks for keeping up with our adventures, and we hope you are enjoying the snow!
Love and miss you all,
Chloe & Molly