Friday, February 3, 2012

BIG NEWS: I got a toilet of my own! Also, still on coffee!

That score is good. Guess what? I didn't vomit this week. I think it
means I'm acclimating because I've been eating all sorts of
interesting things. You're coming?! Hooray! I want to go to Mole
National Park and everyone wants to meet you. You will need a visa.
You have to send your passport in, it takes 2 weeks. You can either
apply as being financially solvent or have Godwin write you an
invitation letter. Let me know or have dad call me if you want a
letter from him, but I think you'd be alright with the financial
solvency option. It's not too sunny here. I'm consistently shocked by
how pale I am. That also might be because I spend all my time with
black people. I'm losing eyelashes as well. Okay. I have already typed
an email and will add it here. I am very happy you're coming! I love
you and miss you so.

Hi Mom!

How are you? I am typing this email before I’m on the internet so I
can save internet time. I’m excited to see what you wrote. Another
week gone and, do you know what? Today is my one month Ghanaversary.
I’ve got that feeling like I’ve JUST arrived while still feeling like
I’ve been here for much longer. I was thinking today about all the
nice friends I’ve made and how varied they are (in no particular
1.      Stronggy and Rashid – housemates of mine. They are both dude
teachers, about my age, and good fun. I laugh a lot while hanging out
with them. 
2.      Dima – she’s lovely and a nice travel partner
3.      Josephine and Precious – they’re both ladies, also about my age,
that teach at the primary school like me. Today (much like other days)
Precious was feeding me Ghanain things and insisting that I eat more
and more and more because “We want your mother to know that we have
been taking care of Ghana. We want you to go back and be very fat so
everyone will know how nice Ghana is.” So, mother, if I’m hideously
obese upon my return, know that it’s your fault. Josephine keeps
trying to get me to show her my breasts because she wants to see if
they're white like the rest of me. I think she'd have a heart attack
if she discovered the pink areolas. :) I told her that I'll work up to
showing her. She's already shown me hers as an offering.
4.      Lemuel – my co-teacher, he’s just a sweet kid. I’m going to see him
play football soon and get a tour of his village.
5.      Nicholas, Ernest, and Mauwli – the first two are students in my
grade 5, Mauwli is in grade 6. They come to my house after school and
ask for more exercises to do. Bless. So, I make them English games and
word scrambles, and word searches. If these kids don’t end up taking
over the country, it’ll be a darn shame. They’re so sweet and smart
and hard working it blows my mind. Plus, they’re good fun.
6.      Theophilus – he also comes to hang out with me. He’s only 5 though
so he doesn’t do exercises. Mostly he just sneaks in cuddles. He’s
really cool.

Others as well. I’ve been so lucky to get to know such good people. 

This week grade 4 got a Coming to Christ speech from me. Of 41
students, only one did her homework. How does one get students to do
their homework when you can’t talk to their parents, give them
detention, or have them go to the principal? I’ve removed caning and
kneeling from the options of “punishment.” I don’t want to concentrate
on the “punishment,” how to I get them to do it before it’s due? I
remind and have them repeat and have them write it down and still,
nothing. It’s a challenge. I think I'll email Rebecca to ask her about
it. Glad that I've got her for a sister. I think about that a lot
while here. How brave she must have been to be in the Peace Corps.
Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit weird because I know I enjoy grade 5 more.
Eep! I hope I’ll learn to adore grade 4 the same. Grade 5 is busily
working on their plays. They’re writing scripts and making costumes to
turn books into little plays. I’m feeling proud of them, but they’re
working in little 6 person groups and they’ve never done group work
before so they’re struggling and I see many groups where one person is
doing all the work. Nicholas (see above) is doing all the work for his
group. Poor kiddo.

I also taught a yoga class to 120 kids. WHOAH. They did well.  After
I finished, one of the other teachers pulled me aside and asked “are
you a pagan?” I said no. Then, “are you a fetish priest?” I said no.
Then he asked what this yoga stuff was all about.

Today I didn’t have class (even though I had 2 spelling quizzes
planned and diary time and play rehearsal) because *drum roll* the
kids were instead supposed to spend the day peeling cassavas. Which
they did. Instead of class. Drives me crazy. Class is so frequently
cancelled because they have to carry buckets of sand, tote bricks on
their head, or do some other chore (child labor) that I miss a ton of
class time that they really need. I’m trying to handle it well, but
it’s a shame and the kids all miss English class too.

The funeral was last weekend. I hope no one dies again. My god. A
solid 3 days of house-shaking bass. SOLID. 24 hours a day. I nearly
went mad. Coined with Godwin’s small herd of auntie’s that were in the
house and blaring the TV, whew.

I went to Accra with Dima on Sunday and learned that Accra is not at
all touristy. The top tourist sites I saw in my guidebook were pretty
awful. So, there’s that. Tomorrow we’re going to see some waterfalls
and, apparently, a rock shaped like an umbrella and a palm tree that
either has 3 trunks or 3 heads (opinions vary). Either way, I hope
they have t-shirts.
I’ve attached (hopefully that is, I’m not on the internet yet, so, if
possible) a photo of my students when they did their speeches. They’re
in the building that, when done, will be a new classroom. They were
working on it this week so the progress is great.

Are you coming? If so, I’ve got a list of things I’d like you to
bring. If not, I’ve got a list of things I’d like you to send.
Love you! Getting on the internet now!


  1. I love reading your blog. I'm trying to think of things that might be practical that would encourage your students to do their homework. Here with behavior modification, we try to modify by motivating with a highly preferred reward. Perhaps more time with teacher Nix could be a reward? Can you divide yourself into 41 different people and they can all have 1:1 time with you? I bet you are doing wonderfully even if your students have trouble with homework.

    1. I love that you read my blog. MAJOR QUESTION - I've been asked to lead teacher workshops (which the teachers here desperately need) and, while excited, I've not a clue what to do, you go to teacher workshops, suggestions? PLEASE. I've been using candy as my preferred reward, eep. :) I wish I knew how to motivate them all, or communicate. What reward/system would you suggest? Also, I wish I had an autism clock here (I think they're not called that, but you know what I mean...) Miss you and your little fam.

    2. Nix, sorry I am so belated in my response!

      They are called visual timers. It's the same concept as a game timer with sand in it... I don't know what the real name is, but they might be easier for you to get your hands on rather than a real visual timer. When is your mom coming to see you? (I'll read on and probably find out that answer)

      As for teacher workshops, have you heard of Differentiated Instruction (DI)? That's the big thing in elementaries right now-- I think it's basically arranging groups of students in either groups with similar or the same ability level and matching your teaching style and content to meet their needs. Also, always teaching to all domains of learning-including things like kinisthetic/motor activities, activities that involve music and/or creative thinking, as well as more traditionally academic tasks. I think trying to teach the same concepts through a variety of different means will eventually help all different types of learners acquire the same content. I am far removed from k-12 education, but if I come across something good, I'll send it your way!

      Also, this concept is big with my students, but I also remember learning about it through an elementary school inservice, was positive behavior supports/interventions. Basically, encouraging positive behavior through positive attention and statements about the child's behavior rather than punishment for behavior. Arg, wish I had more that was helpful.

    3. You are SO incredible. Muchos gracias. Love you!

  2. I was going to suggest a reward system as well. I think they do that where I work with our clients. Strengths-based instead of punishment-based or whatever the opposite of strengths-based is. Are there any little presents that are cheap for you that you can get your hands on that they would love? Like markers, or crayons, or fancy paper, or little toys...I could maybe even send you some stuff if you want. I'd be willing to make a donation to your school :)