I will apologize right off the bat that I am feeling quite down today and so I don’t think my post will be all that witty or exciting. I did do my first workshop this week though and since that is the reason I am here I feel it is important to tell you how it went. (The workshop went really well, that’s not why I’m down. I will fill you in on the frustrations too, just think I will wait a couple of days so that my description will be nice and rational, unlike the ROAR and whimper I am feeling right now.)
The plan for my next few months is to do 2-day workshops in 4 places for grade 4-6 teachers and principals on how to teach math and science , and then repeat this same schedule but for the math/science teacher and principal of the junior highs. For those of you who don’t know, no I have never done a workshop before. I’ve been to a lot, but never lead one. So, yeah, lots to learn.
This week it was off to Ullo (pronounced ooo-looo, obviously I am not an English teacher with the proper technique there). The day did not start off well, with Keke sending me a text at 5:30 that his “stomach was running” and so he wouldn’t be able to come along. He was mainly for moral support so this wasn’t too big of an issue. When I got to the office at 7 both of the other men coming along to observe were there and ready to go……huge success. Going to the gas station not so easy. We pulled up to the pump and the driver asked me how much I wanted. What do you mean, how much do I want? How am I supposed to know how much gas it takes to get to Ullo? (Now I know, 4 gallons there and back, for any of you who ever need to know.)
When we got to Ullo the biggest challenge was that the high school where we were planning to hold the workshop was full. Actually it was more than full. There were a few classes that were meeting in desks lined up in rows under the trees. No problem….we just went down the road to one of the elementary schools, kicked the kids out of their classroom and met there.
My next concern was that none of the teachers would have received the letter about the workshop (the headmaster at the high school said he had not received my request letter for the classroom) or that they would not know where to go. But, sure enough, they were actually at the elementary before us having figured out the solution on their own and there were more teachers there than supposed to be. This would normally not be a big deal, but everyone who comes gets paid for their time, travel, and food (maybe why there were extras???). Long story short some of them didn’t get their money.
Without giving you the whole boring itinerary most of the workshop was on math and science “TLMs,” Teaching and Learning Materials. They use so many acronyms here you would not believe it. Seriously. Anyway, so I have spent the last few weeks putting together various activities to teach what is listed in their syllabus. This really is my favourite part of teaching and so it has been a lot of fun. I was commenting to Mom though that I was very surprised that I found it easier to come up with activities for math than for science, just the opposite of at home. The trick is that I wouldn’t allow myself to use anything that they couldn’t buy in the market and there just aren’t a lot of things here needed for science. Teach temperature without a thermometer? The pharmacist told me I would have to go to Kumasi, a 2 day trip, to buy one. Or magnetism without magnets? I haven’t yet solved these problems, but we did use left over water satchets to teach about air, melt candle wax along a bike spoke for conduction, boil water outside over a coal pot for the water cycle, and so on. They loved it! For math there was the number line along the clothes line and the bottle caps I collected from the ground here at the convent for subtracting with borrowing. That was probably their favourite (and mine too). The other thing I was really excited about was giving each of them a set of dice that Keke and I had a carpenter make and then numbered. I wasn’t sure if they were sold on the games, but this afternoon a guy showed up at the office from one of the schools and said he had used his set with his class that day. Wahoo! So, all in all, a successful start. The real challenge will be seeing whether anything changes in the classroom….phase two of my project, observation.