30 Sept 2010 – Teaching

Today was filled with the joys and frustrations of teaching. The day began in JHS Form 1 after morning assembly. Class started late because morning assembly ended late. I went right to the classroom and handed out papers for the review of our last lesson. Each student in class had the name of a computer input or output device. They were told to indentify if it was in input or output device and tell one other thing about it. Those that came late begged for papers but there was a method to my madness and they didn’t get one if they were late.

Students were eager to stand and tell about their devices. One boy had camera. He knew it was an input device but didn’t say anything about it. So I asked him “What does a camera put into the computer?” Blank stare. I tried aother tactic and asked “What do you use a camera for?” He smiled and said “To take pictures”.  “So what do you thin a camera can put into a computer?” i continued. “Pictures!” he said and took the chalk to write his camera on the board under input devices.

With the review from last class over I started talking about software. My co-teacher, Eric, came in at this time. I talked about System software and when I began applications Eric asked for them to name some applications. One boy said laptop. Eric got angry at that answer and told them he had taught them this last year. Then he started at the right side of the class and walked up to each student asking them for applications. If a student answered wrong he caned them. After two children were caned I walked to doorway and turned my back on it all.

About half way through the class Eric said “Madam, class is not over continue we are wasting time.” He was still asking questions and caning the students. I am not sure of my tone when i replied but I fear it was not polite or calm. “I can’t teach them while you are caning them.”

I was so disappointed with him. He is very good with computers. Knows alot. He is hardworking, teaching not only JHS but also all 6 primary grades. I have enjoyed getting to know him. That’s the awful thing about caning here perfectly decent people think it is the way to handle children. I haven’t yet decided if I will talk to him or just continue to shun it when it happens and hope alternate methods of teaching will rub off.

Louisa and Johan were teaching/watching Primary 2 (P2) and Kindergarten(KG). They are supposed to be teaching art to all primary grades but ended up with teaching these classes today because neither teacher was on campus. The P2 teacher has not yet reported to school. She should come next week. The KG teacher had taken some students to the hospital. Louisa and Johan had only one week training here and no instruction about the Ghana education system and were expected on the second day of classes to teach.

I felt for them so I offered to come down after breakfast (around 10:00) and help. I must have  been crazy. I have no resources to teach KG. The school had no resources. The kids didn’t even have pencils or I couldn’t get them to fetch their pencils. And the kids don’t speak much English.  The first 15 minutes started fine. I had the great idea to teach them the English for sit down and stand up. Silly me I thought all they needed was to know the words and compliance would follow. I was so wrong.

It was pretty much bedlam after that. Children crying, running here and there, one kid got a cane, and they were fighting. Two boys went after each other so many times that I finally called the Senior Prefect to ask him to figure out what they were fighting about and to punish them.

At one point, just before lunch Johan and I were pulling two boys apart. I had removed the pile of boys on the main fighters but it was beyond my strength to pull these two 6 or 7 year old boys apart. It was a blood feud. Johan came and we each took one boy and pulled him away. As we were pulling they were still punching and kicking. Samuel, a former Form 3 JHS student, came and interpreted. One boy said the other had eaten his lunch yesterday.

But there was some good too. I put the alphabet on the board. They recited after me and then some students wanted to point to the letters and lead the class. When other students seemed bored I introduced the Alphabet Song. Then we collected some rocks. I wanted to give them a chance to get up and move about outside. That went fine until some children started pulling leaves off a certain tree and eating the leaves. I was terrified they would be poisoned and fall down dead there in front of me, so I rushed them back into the classroom.

I found about 30 interlocking foam pieces. I put some on each table and allowed the children to play with them. These were the only learning toys the KGs had. Most enjoyed putting them together but one boy made one that was hinged at an angle like a laptop and he was playing it and singing. This activity kept them busy for the longest maybe 30 minutes.  Success!

Perhaps I should describe the classrooms. The KGs have a low table and a bench that three or four of them share. Ten benches are lined arranged in two rows of five. We are in the dining hall with P2. The hall is like other classrooms only bigger. It is an open room no windows but the walls are only about waist height and from there to the roof is open. Unlike Sandema where they need windows, screens and louvers because of the dusty hamattan season. It’s is a good design for cross ventilation.

Louisa spelled me for a while so I could go to the library and get some books. When I returned I shared books with each table and took one of the youngest on my lap as I read to a group. Other children sat at the tables and looked at the books. Another success of 20 minutes relative calm!

Just before lunch the smallest girl, no more than 3, came to me and gave the universal pick me up sign of two raised arms. When I did she nestled into my chest and closed here eyes and went to sleep.

At lunch Lousia, Johan and I decided that the children were just plain tired. They get up some where around 5:00 am and lights don’t go out until after 9:30. I almost wish we didn’t have a generator for lights in the evening. As I am writing this I thought that it maybe the substitute teacher syndrome as well. Most likely students test the sub all over the world. If you are wondering where Werner (said Verna) is, he is in bed sick and missing all the fun!

The afternoon class with Form 2 went well dispite the rain. Yesterday we had a ceremony for the start of school. Just near the end it started to rain – Hard! I then remembered why we sometimes don’t teach in the rain. Rain on a tin roof sounds like gunshots. Imagine Thousands of gunshots going off right over your head. But the rain today was not so hard and if walked around class and repeated myself I could be heard. I could write the definitions on the board for them to copy. Also I only had about 10 minutes of lecture before we moved to groups where they could hear me better. I was teaching them about files and folders and hoped to show them the values of organizing files into folders.

The activity worked. Horray! When we finished I could see the light of understanding on at least half the faces. I can remember on class in Sandema where I did a detailed demonstration of how information moves over the internet. I used the whole classroom, people sent messages, people were TCP/IP, others the router and all were confused after the demo. Two days later when I said something like – “Just like in our demonstration” one brave student raised her hand and said “Madam what was the point of that?” and more than half nodded in agreement.

As Eric took over explaining how to create and move folders I could tell they got the basics. It felt good.

My last teaching of the day was in the computer lab with Vincent and Raymond, Form 2 and 3 respectively. I told the JHS that they could come to the lab after classes and I would open a computer for them to see the parts inside. They were interested. Asked questions that showe d they had some basic knowledges and were eager to connect the system unit to other parts of the computer. I may have found two members of the computer team.

So now after a frustrating and rewarding day I am in bed with a belly full of Fufu and light soup – ready to call it a day.