Tag Archives: creative writing

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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Education: The Great Equalizer

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” – Horace Mann

Today was the second day of teaching and classes went much more smoothly. The students were participating and engaged in group discussion. For example, in Geography taught by Greg and Alexis, two students approached them after class wanting to borrow their encyclopedias for further research. Also, in the Creative writing class led by Jake and Teresa, the students were so focused on writing their short stories that they refused to put their pens down even after the drums signaling the end of class sounded. Lilah, Jennie and Anita taught the 9th graders American Government today. They ended up extending their class to two periods because the students kept asking intricate and brilliant questions regarding equal rights for women in the workforce, what Obama has done for America as president, and other controversial issues in politics.

Despite the obvious improvements from many students today, there were still a few very obvious sleepers in a few of the classes. Jennie crafted a brilliant strategy to put a stop to that: instead of waking them, she decided to have an impromptu photoshoot with the rest of the class posing behind the sleeping students! Jennie will probably have no sleepers for the rest of the trip, while everyone else will try the same plan tomorrow.

In our reflection session this evening, we focused on the perceptions of education in Ghana, compared to those in the United States. Many of us were struck by the Ghanaian students’ ambition to learn, which often became apparent in our personal interviews with them. One of Jake’s interview questions was “If you could have one superpower what would it be?” To his surprise, three out of his four students said that they wanted to possess unlimited knowledge. Their realization of the importance of education at such a young age continues to amaze us. If only this attitude was more prevalent in our pubic schools back at home. Many American students do not grasp the concept that education frees us and is the key to success. At times when we would have wanted goof around and not study, Ghanaian students are driven to become doctors and bankers.

Do not think it is “all work and no play” for the Ghanaian students, however. Whenever there is some free time, all the boys would grab the soccerball and play pick up “football” behind the library on the less than adequate ground. With a firepit of burning trash at one end of the goal line and barbed wire lining the out-of-bounds, the younger students would play all-out, and barefoot, just for the love of the game. Jake and Sydney have been playing with them daily, in awe of their competitive spirit. They have been encouraging some of the girls to join, but the boys all-out play and their disregard for their surroundings is a bit intimidating. Jake and Sydney are confident that by the end of the trip at least a few girls will want to play with them.

One final highlight of our day was when the tailor paid us a visit in the evening to craft the fabrics we purchased at the market yesterday. The living room at our guesthouse was filled with colorful Ghanaian fabrics, and plenty of estrogen to go around as well. The boys were loving it, for sure. The tailor has his work cut out for him over the next week as he sews together 15 high-maintenance orders that include American-style dresses, shorts, and ties.

Once again, the group is exhausted from another day of teaching, playing, and fashion designing. We will all rest well before the final day of our first Ghanaian school week tomorrow.

– Syd “Pele” Seydel and Mike “Armani” Zoeller

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