Gone to Ghana

Confused December 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — slrussell @ 6:58 pm

Today was the first chance I had to go out to the schools and observe lessons taught by some of the teachers who had attended the workshops.  At 8am I rolled up to St. Joseph’s (have I mentioned that I cycle in a skirt????) ready to meet the teachers.  The students were all in their formations and doing the march/song they do on their way to class.  So far so good.  When we got to the office we discovered that only 1 out of the 12 teachers from the school was there.  Just let that sink in.  The thing that amazes me the most is that the kids still did what they were supposed to even though there was not a teacher there to “supervise.”


Charles and I observed the first lesson and it was okay.  The teacher did have some of the students do a role play, being in line with our whole focus on having the students engaged, so kudos to him for that.  Then we asked him if we could stay and observe his math lesson since the others weren’t there but unfortunately he had not planned a math lesson for the day.  As the hour or so went on a few more teachers arrived, along with the headmistress (principal).  She called one of the other teachers who had come to the workshop to tell her to get to school to teach a lesson so I could observe it.  The whole time I’m wondering why it matters so much more that I observe a lesson than the students are taught a lesson.  Anyway.  This woman unfortunately had “left her lesson plan notebook at home” so she muddled her way through something. I felt really badly because it was clear that the kids had no idea what she was talking about and were afraid to answer.  I would be too if I was insulted for taking too long or saying something incorrect.  Sigh.  To be fair, the first class had 60 and the second 64.  As we left I had the chance to say hello to the kids in the other classrooms, many of them filled with the same number of kids all sprawled out on the floor because they were younger.  I’m not sure if I could keep my motivation in such a situation.


The second school we went to had a really good feel about it right away and we were not disappointed.  Two of the four teachers were ready for us and the lessons they taught were well done.  The first teacher actually brought in containers of different sizes and had students fill them with water as they were discussing volume.  Hooray!  The second class gave me the most pleasure of the day, but not because of the teaching.  When we walked in the teacher’s 6 month old baby leaned over to be held by me.  Same age as Alyssa, it made my day! This teacher also had a pretty good lesson (on poultry!) and it still amazes me that she does all of this while taking care of her child all day in the classroom.   And I was super excited to see that she had more dice made for her class and am quite sure she has been playing some math games with them.  Hooray #2!

But as we were leaving the school this same teacher chased a 3 year old back towards the nursery school, a good 200m away, hitting him with a stick.  I was so upset and she explained that he just keeps wandering over there and so she wanted to make it so he wouldn’t come back.  Gulp. Yes, I took the kid back to the nursery school myself, where incidentally a group of junior high students asked me if they could touch me.  They just wanted to feel what “different” skin was like.


When we got back to the office word was spreading that nobody had been paid yet this month.  For people who are living hand to mouth this is tragedy. 


So here I have spent a whole day “observing,” trying not to judge, and I am totally confused.  Ups, downs, cause, effect, one big loop.  I just don’t get it.


2 Responses to “Confused”

  1. lu Says:

    oh my, we MUST go for a coffee when you are back. i ‘observed’ teaching in a school for a few days when i was in central ghana as well and came out wih the very same confusion as you did. ineffectual lessons, outright misinformation on health (to cure liver cancer, eat spinach!), overcrowded classrooms, and the need to impress the white girls in the room over demonstrating the teaching styles and abilities of the staff.

    yet, i had a great time telling the classrooms about canada and where i come from (including a rendition of our national anthem on request…!)

    so if have anything to say, it is that you are not alone.

  2. Dad Says:

    As I finished reading this entry the following (google is unbelievable) came to mind

    Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebur
    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as i would have it
    Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen

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