Day 13

(This is a belated post for this past Monday, July 4th)

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As I think I mentioned in a post before, Monday marked the first day that the teachers would switch classes for one week. I was assigned to the kindergarten (KG) class along with Auntie Lilly, who is one of my favorite teachers here.

Before I could start teaching KG, I had a photo lesson with class 5. In this class, I gave them their first camera assignment: a photo scavenger hunt. After briefly going over the camera settings and safety that we had learned last week, I gave the kids a list of things to take photos of around the school. The list included items such as “a picture of your favorite teacher” and “a picture of the cooks making breakfast.” I tried to explain to them that this assignment was about quality, not quantity. I wanted them to use their camera flash when appropriate, practice taking pictures that were not posed (no selfies), and make sure that the photos were sharp and clear. I sent them off to complete their tasks and, while they were working, typed up another (late) blog post.

 One of the best photos from the scavenger hunt: a portrait of Malik (Class 4) by  Apoakwah (Class 5).

One of the best photos from the scavenger hunt: a portrait of Malik (Class 4) by Apoakwah (Class 5).

 Another great image: a picture of Sir Cornelius by  Hakeem (Class 5) .

Another great image: a picture of Sir Cornelius by Hakeem (Class 5).

After the kids came back, packed up, and handed in their cameras, I met Lilly in KG. The kids were so cute and enthusiastic, but also such a handful! While I’ve done a fair amount of babysitting in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever had to control over a dozen 6-year olds at the same time. It’s hard work! They would not sit down, they would not stop talking, and they definitely would not listen. From the time that I started teaching at 8AM until break time at 10AM, I felt like I didn’t get anything accomplished (besides making my voice hoarse from all of the times that I screamed “1, 2, 3, eyes on me!” only to be met by an extremely small number of kids replying “1, 2, eyes on you.”). I had tried to teach the kids adjectives, but they were having a lot of difficulty grasping what I was saying. I am not sure if these kids are just further behind in their education than kindergarteners in America are, or if I am so far removed from that age that I cannot remember what it is normal for 6-year-olds to know or not know, but I was very surprised by how little knowledge they had on the topic. Break time was welcome, and I figured we would give adjectives another try when they got back.

Break lasted half an hour, and then the kids came back to class. I tried to give them a little assignment to practice using adjectives but it did not work out very well. In my directions, I told each kid to pick a fruit or vegetable and write it down. Then, I gave them questions to answer. What is the fruit/vegetable color? Taste? Shape? Texture? Though I thought these to be pretty simple questions, there were many kids that still seemed super lost. For example, one kid picked “tomato” and wrote “Color: Blue. Shape: Mango. Taste: Ice-cream. Texture: Good.” While I guess I can except “good” as a texture (maybe I didn’t explain textures well enough), the fact that this kid thought that tomatoes were blue, mangos, and ice cream was beyond me. Thankfully, Lilly stepped in to teach the kids “math” (aka how to read a clock).

By lunchtime at 12PM, I was wiped. Wrangling all of the kindergarteners had proven exhausting and I was so excited to have another short break. I made a quick sandwich and then remembered something amazing: I wouldn’t have to return to KG that afternoon because, instead, I needed to run my first pageant practice. I felt bad for being so relieved to get away from the kindergarteners, though I vowed to try harder tomorrow. In the meantime, I was glad to have some rest.

I rounded up the seven girls that are participating in the pageant and we met out in the courtyard. I wanted to talk with them about what the pageant entailed, but this was pretty difficult as we could not find a quiet place to talk alone. Dozens of kids kept coming up and trying to join the conversation, and this persisted even after we had moved locations. We tried to move to the assembly room, but were interrupted. We moved to the library and were interrupted again. Eventually, we went to classroom 4 and began to talk. Kids peeked in the windows and tried to climb through the broken door, so we had to continually stop to ask them to leave. It seemed like I was destined to experience a day in which, no matter what I said, no kid would listen to me. I found out later that this is because the children are so used to caning as a punishment that they do not see verbal commands as legitimate. No matter how many times I said “Can you guys please leave? I’m not joking! Please, we need to practice,” there was a steady group of 3-8 kids hanging outside the door. 

I explained to the girls how the pageant would work, making sure to note that this was not a beauty pageant. Beauty would play no role in the “winner” (though every girl was going to get an equal prize), and instead the girls would need to present themselves as good role models for the rest of the school by having great attitudes, having fun, and being appropriate. The girls each picked which talents they were going to display, and then we talked about wardrobe. They each wrote introductions for themselves and practiced saying them a few times. Then, we watched a few videos to get a better feel for how pageant contestants walk in, introduce themselves, etc. I wanted to find a video on YouTube of a Ghanaian pageant (so that the girls could see women that looked like them), though they insisted on watching Miss America. We watched a few short clips, with the girls commenting on how insanely short the contestants dresses were all the while (they even asked me “Are we allowed to wear long skirts instead..?”), which I thought was hilarious.  They were all very excited about having been chosen to participate (each teacher picked only one girl from each class), and in two hours we were able to practice our catwalk, our introductions, and also start to put together our group dance. It’s kind of embarrassing but all of the girls are so much better at dancing than me! We stopped practicing around 3 or 4PM with a promise to meet again on Thursday; this time, I told them I would bring them candy to celebrate my birthday. One thing I remembered from my dinner with Frederick is that, in Ghana, you give presents to people on your birthday (not the other way around).

When practice ended, I hung out in my (our?) room before grabbing a pineapple from the local fruit stand. I read my book while munching on the super ripe fruit and, when I was done, chased that snack with a dinner of cheese and crackers. While I am not eating very healthily here (and it’s hard to, trust me), I am eating so much less than normal! The fruit/cracker combo was actually pretty filling. From this point, I sat down to look through and grade all of the scavenger hunt photos that class 5 produced. While there were a ton of dark, blurry images (and selfies, unfortunately), there were several photos that I thought were really great. The few promising shots made me super excited for the time that I have left with these kids as I can now see the potential that they have to grow. I’ve included a few of my favorite photos above as well as below:

 A homework notebook photographed by  Princess (Class 5).

A homework notebook photographed by Princess (Class 5).

 A clothes line (featuring many of my clothes) photographed by  Stephanie (Class 5).

A clothes line (featuring many of my clothes) photographed by Stephanie (Class 5).

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As a parting statement, I’d like to say a Happy (belated) 4th of July to all of my American friends and family! While I did not celebrate the holiday as I usually do in the US, I think that spending the holiday in Ghana helped to offer me much better insight and appreciation. Historically, I haven’t given much gratitude to my country—on the 4th, or on any other day. I am one of the first to point out the many problems that America has: its excess racism, its failing education systems, its lack of gun control, etc. When my friends have posted long, thankful, open letters to America as a Facebook status or Instagram caption, I’ve rolled my eyes and turned back to my watery excuse for a beer. I’ve much preferred to wear red, white and blue than to celebrate them. This being said, my time so far in Ghana has given me a newfound appreciation for my home country. Though I still think that there are many problems that we need to fix before we are actually the best country in the world, I can now acknowledge that I am lucky to have been born in the United States as it afforded me much more opportunity than I would have gotten in some other countries around the world. Although I explained to Frederick that not everyone in America has access to wealth, the fact of the matter is that our glass ceiling is nothing compared to the concrete ceiling in Ghana. While you will not catch me joining the draft, shouting #MURICA from the rooftops, and spouting on about bald eagles and barbecue, I will say that I am extremely thankful for the opportunities I have been given in the U-S-of-A. Despite not being satisfied with every aspect of my country, I at least know that I have the option and right to protest the injustices I experience and see. Unfortunately, not every country is afforded this same justice.