Hello everyone! Welcome back to SHEISALLIN, where I get to take YOU through my journey in Ghana! For blog post #3, I am going to talk to you all about my first week in Kasoa, a city in Ghana about 1 hour from Accra.
Over our first week in Kasoa, we began our internship with CLED, the Campaign for Learning Disabilities. Ah!! I was placed in classroom 5 with 8-10 year olds, and got to spend a lot of time tutoring some of the students and helping the teachers grade papers. There had to have been more than 60 students in my class and 3 teachers, like in most classrooms. When I walk in the room, the number of open notebooks on each of the teacher’s desks waiting to be graded blew my mind!
Oh how much I wish you all could have met the students in my class! When I was first introduced to them, they were in their first period on Wednesday. On Wednesday mornings, the students have prayer and worship, and it was so amazing to see the students praise God with their hearts, their voices, their bodies, and even their desks. I don’t know how they could be so coordinated with each other. My own feet oftentimes don’t even coordinate with each other too well.
Over my internship, we were also able to attend some teacher and counselor trainings/ workshops held by CLED. I learned so much about what visual and hearing impairments looked like and the types of intervention options that may be available. We talked about a new curriculum being implemented in Ghana’s school system to ensure more inclusive education for children with special needs and learning differences, and it was just… everything! We talked a lot about creating inclusive classrooms and what different accommodations for children with special needs may look like. There is something so powerful about being in a roomful of passionate teachers who love the work that they do.
One of these accommodations that we discussed, however, was stopping the practice of caning in the classroom. Caning, or hitting students with sticks or other objects for the sake of discipline, was a practice that I witnessed first hand, even though it was recently made illegal in the country. The issue, however, lies in the truth that this law is not enforced in the classroom. The training was an amazing opportunity for teachers to engage in discussion regarding the issue, and talk about how much the practice creates a hostile environment and one far from being inclusive.
During our time in class that week, we learned a lot about implicit bias, and talked more about privileged and oppressed identities in society. We drew an identity wheel and really went deep into how our lives are affected by them both in the U.S. and in Ghana. It’s so interesting to note how different aspects of our identities are received and perceived in different contexts. Being a young American woman in Ghana are identities that affected my ability to build relationships with students, and really affected my experience in general, in many ways. It was powerful to step back and recognize that much of my experiences at school, at the market, at our hotel, was really influenced by who I was and who people thought I was.
Continuing to think about identities, that week I thought a lot about race and ethnicity, colorism, and classism. A woman asked me at the mall whether I was “strictly white or mixed race because of the texture of (my) hair.” Some students, when I told them my last name, even asked me if I was Mexican. Not one person that I responded to in telling them my family is from the Dominican Republic knew where it was. Half knew of Haiti, though. Over the week, many students would run up to me and tell me that they like the color of my skin and thought it was beautiful. I had to intentionally remind them that theirs were just as beautiful, just as smooth, just as lovely. I’m still processing these things, but these are just some of the ways who I was and perceptions on who I was, really affected my personal experience abroad.
But, anyway, fun time over our first 7 days in Kasoa looked like playing a lot of soccer with children who live in the neighborhood, and hanging out with staff at the hotel. It looked like bargaining at the markets, fitting 6 people in a taxi, and doing check-ins together as a team. It looked like eating a lot of fan-ice, or frozen-yogurt packages (so good), and watching Ghanaian movies at the mall. It looked like eating a lot of popcorn, with salt and sugar, and hearing the streets of Ghana roar after goals were made when soccer, or football, games were on.
This was when I felt I was finally getting in the grove of things. Some days I got so tired that I didn’t want to move, and my body was still having a really hard time adjusting to Ghanaian time, but I couldn’t have asked for a better week.
So there you have it friends! My first week in Kasoa. I can’t wait to share more of my feelings, experiences, thoughts, and joys with you in more posts to come.
The CLED Team!
At One of the Teacher Trainings
My Friends and I at the Mall!