Tag Archives: books

Sorry to our 8th grade teachers…we finally understand.

Mondays.  Oh Mondays.  Why must they come so soon?  After a relaxing and eventful weekend we felt a little apprehensive starting such a daunting, teaching-heavy week.  Whether it be lesson plan anxiety, mild bodily discomfort, or feeling a little homesick, it was clear we all had our worries about how this Monday would go and whether we would be successful in engaging with our students in meaningful ways.

Some challenges we continued to face today revolved around effectively managing our classrooms and dealing with troublesome students. Having drawn a lot from our own experiences in grade school, many of us are feeling like we are, at times, falling short of being able to command their full attention and gaining 100% of their respect. Breaking into the already predefined “classroom culture” here at Heritage has been a definite barrier, but one that we are slowly breaking down and becoming a part of. This has lead all of us to realize that teaching is a skill that is honed over time and is causing us to feel a great deal of respect for the teachers that have helped shape our lives in many apparent (and subtle) ways.

The day was filled with highs, however, as we continued to connect with our students in new and surprising ways. For example, after having a difficult start to the teaching process, one of the students in Katie’s Human Rights class came forward with a completely finished final project days before it was due. The students were instructed to create their own countries, including designing a flag, constitution, and structure, and it was so encouraging to see this student really embrace a challenging concept with such creativity.  Kyle also experienced a breakthrough today in his Creative Writing class when a quiet, yet confident student proudly read a short story of his own.  For us, who seek to teach material that will encourage students to explore their creativity, these moments of expression are self-affirming and inspiring.

After school today, several of us journeyed into town to explore the market. The rest of our group stayed behind at school to organize their ever-growing library. Growing up in America, reading was a natural part of our lives, and a way for us to learn and be influenced by our culture. Because of the lack of Ghanaian culture represented in the literature that they have access to, the students at Heritage are consuming American culture as they learn to read.  This seems to be leading to a certain disconnect with the books they read every single day. Despite these cultural differences, we are noticing more and more how similar children are all over the world. The hand-games and silly childhood habits that we all experienced growing up are present here in Ghana as well, and this makes the world feel just a little bit smaller.

Thanks again for keeping up with our trials and tribulations. We love you all and are eager to share our stories in more detail when we get back to the States!

Peace, Love, & Plantains,

Molly, Kyle & the Crew

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To Walk A Mile in New Shoes

As our second and final week of teaching at Heritage began, we realized that Ghanaian students are not immune to “the Mondays.” Despite some understandable lassitude following the weekend, many of the students quickly regained their enthusiasm for another week of classes. Many of our “highs” in our daily reflection session centered on stories about our reading periods with some of the younger students. We all have two or three reading periods a day, during which we sit with small groups of students and read books from the library, working on pronunciation, vocabulary, and comprehension. Today we brought our first batch of new, donated books to our reading periods, which the kids were really excited about, because they’ve practically memorized the stories in their other books.
Many of our students, both from classes and from reading periods, have been asking for our addresses to become penpals. Today alone, five of us received such requests, which we happily obliged. We look forward to keeping in touch with these students when we return to the US.
This afternoon, spearheaded by Kate, half of us handed out surveys designed to gauge students’ opinions of the school environment, which will be compared against identical surveys completed by students back home in local Lancaster County schools. We surveyed the 10th and 11th graders, and succeeded in collecting 74 finished surveys. As a small prize for helping us out, we also handed out pencils, erasers, and highlighters, but pens were by far the most popular item. A comparison of the surveys completed in Ghana and the US will hopefully shed light on rates of bullying, students’ outlook on their schools, and performance by grade in these two countries.
The other half of us assembled in Heritage’s clinic to start the week-long process of measuring each student’s height, weight, and shoe size. As we went, we compiled the students’ information on index cards, which will be alphabetized and filed to track their growth over time. Today we measured the height and weight of all the eighth graders, which we’ll plot on growth charts to make sure everyone is getting sufficient nutrients. We also had plenty of shoes to distribute to the eighth graders, although our shoe sizer disappeared, making the process considerably slower! So we ended up more or less guessing their shoe sizes as we went, giving each student a larger or smaller size as needed. After plenty of trial and error, each eighth grade student walked away with a new pair of shoes. During the sizing, Jennie spoke with one student waiting in line whose bus was about to leave. Despite Jennie’s assurance that she could get shoes tomorrow, this girl chose to miss her short bus ride and walk 45 minutes home instead, with a new pair in hand.
Tonight marks the halfway point in our eight days of teaching at Heritage, and it’s saddening to think that in only a week we’ll be back in Lancaster, missing our Heritage friends. We’ve already met so many people and visited plenty of fascinating places in Ghana, and we’re excited to finish strong this last week.

– Teresa, Mike, and Sydney

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