Back from Ghana – Kevin

Well, we made it back safely to the U.S. yesterday, and it’s safe to say that all of us were incredibly sad to leave Ghana and Heritage Academy. The kids were all so wonderful, and there were some tears from a few of our group members and a few Heritage students at our farewell on Monday.

The last week of teaching for me was, in general, great. Most of the children finished up their books, and those that are finished have a permanent place in the Heritage Academy library. Given the fact that practically none of these children have ever taken an art class before, many of them can draw extremely well. The only thing I found surprising, and a little annoying, was that the children couldn’t figure out how to share the materials I had gotten for them (colored pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc…). I would have expected this from much younger children, but certainly not from 13-14 year olds. Seeing as that was really the only problem that I had to deal with in my class, I’d say the entire teaching experience was definitely positive. I am especially proud of my J1B class (7th grade), who are (because of test scores) classified as the more remedial of the two J1 classes, because their work ethic is significantly higher than any other group of students I have met. Not only did all of the students in J1B finish their work by Friday afternoon, but they managed to do it all in fewer class periods. Some of the students in that class even finished their books the night that I assigned them. Although I think that I’ve known this for a while, it was great to see an example, showing that test scores don’t always reflect intelligence and that a hard work ethic is probably one of the most important tools to have in life.

I took pictures of all the books that the children made so that I could remember what they looked like, and I will post some of them on this blog soon, so that you all can read and enjoy them as well.

In addition to teaching, we have also been working hard to make the cinderblocks that will eventually be used to build the secondary school (high school). We made a total of 315 blocks in our short 2 week visit, and according to T. Kwesi the secondary school will be up and running this September, just in time for the new school year.

Again, we were all heartbroken that we had to leave after such a short time, but I can guarantee that many, if not all, are planning on going back as soon as possible.


“Bucket Showers” and “It’s only a wee-wee”

Before people get too offended or shocked by the latter half of this title, let me explain. “It’s only a wee-wee” is the title of a song in a Quaker-song book that was compiled by a Westtown Teacher. Not only did we find it hilarious, but we also thought it was appropriate for our experience to date, given the fact that the small Ghanaian children are completely fascinated by urination (both theirs and other people’s). Moving on to a different topic. “Bucket showers” refers to the types of showers that we have to take now, because the water in our compound has stopped working. While it’s certainly a different experience, it’s not all that bad and no seems to mind too much.

Over all, the trip has been going wonderfully so far. The kids at Heritage are amazing, and for different reasons. The younger kids are drawn to you as if by some sort of magnetic force, and won’t let go of you until you forcefully break their grip. They are so adorable of course that you never want to make them leave. Someone once told them that white people smell different, so naturally all of them spend a lot of time smelling us. The older kids (the ones that we teach) always want us to play soccer with them (fortunately, I have been saved from embarrassing myself too much in front of the children).

My classes have been going well so far, but there have of course been some snags. Explaining to the children what exactly they are supposed to be doing has been somewhat difficult, probably because they’re English skills are below what I expected them to be, and because they have never undertaken a project like this before. Many of them have written stories that I assume are traditional tribal fables, which is a really good thing because it allows them to write about things that are important to them and that they enjoy.

One group of kids had trouble understanding the concept behind story writing, because much of the writing they do for school is strictly factual. They produced very detailed descriptions of themselves and of Heritage Academy, but everything they wrote lacked a plot. When I told them to write stories like the ones in the books that they read in their reading groups, they wrote one of the stories out  word for word, by memory. Not only does this prove that Heritage needs more books, so that the kids can actually learn English and not memorization, but it proved to me that I needed to find another way of explaining the assignment. I asked them “what would you do if you could do anything” and they replied that they liked to draw. I suggested that they come up with a story involving someone who draws/paints, and they came up with an idea for a story called “the magic brush”. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m really confident that it will be great.

Each day I have been working with the children in order to help them develop their stories. I’ve been teaching them about plot, descriptive words/phrases, conflict and resolution, setting, and character development. For the next couple of classes, I hope to take the students outside so that they can work together in quiet. Hopefully they will be able to learn a lot by reading each other’s stories and critiquing them.

That’s all the time I have for today, but I’ll be sure to talk to you all later! Kevin