Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Am I Doing Here

Belated Post

No, this is not an existential tome about why I am here on earth. I only lately realized that I didn't provide much detail on what it is that I will be doing while volunteering 24 or so months of my time here in Ghana. The country has a sizeable need for teachers and Peace Corps tends to send about 40% or more of its volunteers to Ghana as teachers. The rest? Meh, we don't care about them right now, do we? Omnibus volunteers will not find that joke at all humorous.

Back to the point though of what I am doing here. My field is computers so they placed me into the Information and Communication Technologies track of education. This means that I get to teach about computers and related topics to my heart's content. During training the Edu volunteers are asked to teach before several classes so that observers can see what they have on their hands in terms of teachers. I am not alone in having zero teaching experience in my background. Most of the people that I train with haven't taught but were studying or working in their respective fields to know enough about the subject matter.

There are five ICT trainees and we all must catch a taxi or tro ride over to a school close to Koforidua. About an hour and a half depending on when the taxi sets sail out of Asafo. The school we are practicing in is a teacher training college. We teach future teachers. For our group we have had a few ups and downs getting classes together so of the four or five hours that I was to be observed teaching, I'd say I have clocked about three and a half hours so far. Classes and our understanding of where things are to be has snipped a few minutes each and every time.

So I get up in front of a class of about 20 or 30 and teach either Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint for an hour. I can quiz the class if I want, make them do homework, make them put their heads down and sleep, whatever I want. This all feels very strange.

Every class that I have had the pleasure of seeing has been incredibly well behaved, but this seems typical for the age group that I am placed with. Most will be in their very late teens or early twenties and they are looking to learn all the can so they may pass their large test in the second year. So I consider this a plus. From all the students I have seen, many will do just fine when they go to exams.

For each and every school that I have witnessed, all pupils are dressed in school uniforms. I am not sure why, but I really like this better than in the U.S. public system. Everybody looks neat and professional, better than me most of the time. (For those of you who know my appearance, you would be surprised to learn that not once have I put on blue jeans since I arrived and even on hot days I am in button up shirts and nice pants. Ghana has changed me!)

Most of the students are familiar with the enforcement policies of Ghanaian schools and to label them strict would be an understatement. Many of them have seen or been the recipient of a switch from a teacher or a headmaster, so I have learned that when I ask a question many of them will not venture forth with an answer because sometimes they have been taught that a wrong answer is punishable. I am having continuous talks with volunteers and my Ghanaian counterparts to find out all that I can to correct some of my habits when it comes to managing a class.

My toughest challenge though is clear to me: Remembering everyone's name! Patience and a bit of hard work should carry me through though.

So that is my job. I will be teaching from the basics to the complex in ICT while making sure my students are prepared for the exams that get them a degree. As my job gets going I am sure to write up more comments here and there. If I haven't mentioned this already, my comments do not reflect the views of the Peace corps program or anyone inside or outside the Ghanaian education system. They are all mine.


Anonymous said...

Dave, these blogs are just great and really give an excellent overview of the situation. Having been in 3rd world countries in the Carribbean, I really can get a sense of your adventures. Many times while in the islands we ventured off to places where white folks are not commonly seen. Always fun experiences. Anyway, I am so enjoying your posts. I am surprised that you are able to get on the computer so often. Do you think that will change once you are actually teachiing? Is your school wired? I am guessing yes, but perhaps not. Have fun! Tee

Anonymous said...

Awesome, David!

Phineas said...

Do they call you "Mr. Pig?"

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

Getting caught up on your blog today... Great to hear that you're ok and adjusting to it all. Thanks for posting all this! It's awesome hearing about your adventures! Ciao! -fraz-

Ryan said...

Keep 'em coming Dave. Such an amazing experience!

Anonymous said...

This is great. If you need any tips or advice as you become a teacher, feel free to contact me. A lot of what I teach to my students is computers and digital arts. If you ever find yourself teaching kids, maybe we could even connect them through technology. Y'never know.

Brad said...

It's interesting what you note about overcoming their reluctance to answer a question. You might need to explicitly tell them that you encourage responses, and there's no penalty for being wrong. I don't kow if you give "grades," but if so, you could include credit for class participation to make it worth their while. It sounds like there are ingrained habits to overcome. Since they are well-behaved, it could be worth simply calling on a particular student for an answer. Also...after you pose a question to the class, you should make sure to wait a while for a response -- as much as 10 seconds, which doesn't sound like much but is very hard to do. You're a very patient guy, and I imagine you have some natural ability as a teacher. Good luck!