In early June a group of BPSCITT trainees travelled to Ghana to volunteer in a school. One of our Primary trainees, Lawrence has written an article about his experiences whilst there.
In early June I took advantage of an opportunity presented by the Buckingham Partnership SCITT in partnership with Akwaaba Volunteers to travel to Accra in Ghana to teach voluntarily. It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to travel to a place with a vastly different culture and to help make an impact with less fortunate children. I have previously planned similar trips on my accord to Malawi and Sri Lanka but both plans had fallen through for different circumstances. Therefore, I jumped at this opportunity when it arose.
The group I travelled with included one of the course tutors (PE lead – Nell), three PE trainees (Elliot, Amber and Alice) and a psychology trainee (Abigail). I was the only one from the primary trainee cohort. Upon arriving when we were collected and greeting by the amazing people from Akwaaba Volunteers who hosted our trip – Jordan Palmer and King Boateng, we enjoyed a sightseeing day in Accra, an authentic African Drumming
lesson and a relaxing day at the local Bojo beach in the weekend.
From Monday to Friday, it was time to roll up our sleeves and teach at Future Leaders school. The school was created for underprivileged children who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance of an education. The PE contingent organised a wide variety of active lessons throughout the week introducing many new sports and games other than their staple diet of football and netball whereas Abi taught Psychology lessons which was a completely new topic for the school and the children, and one was very well received. I was stationed in a fantastic year 4 class for the week working alongside their class teacher ‘Sir Michael’.
From my observations and from the people at Akwaaba Volunteers telling me the teaching can be very regimented and prescriptive in Ghana. Therefore, I aimed to introduce some different teaching techniques with the aim of making the lessons interactive, immersive and fun. These sessions were well received by the children. An example of how I did this was in a science lesson where the children were being introduced to the functions of the digestive system. I found that the children really enjoyed this way of learning, and my formative assessments of their knowledge proved it was an effective lesson.
The biggest adaptation I had to make was having to work without hardly any resources in most lessons and needing to be creative. There were no resources for my usual teaching technique of using IT and PowerPoint and stationery and textbooks were in very short supply. Also, whilst there was a whiteboard, the heat often made the pens run out, so it wasn’t always a viable option. I found this thought to be a positive in the development of my teaching as I had to think on my feet, rely on my subject knowledge and it forced me to adopt different teaching styles and ways in which I delivered the lessons. For example, in one ICT lesson I taught a typing lesson without computers as they only have three computers in the school. To adapt I drew a keyboard on the whiteboard which the children copied out into their books. We then used these to form our lesson and practised understanding where each key is.
The cultural barrier was initially a minor issue in teaching the class at the beginning of the week. I quickly found that I needed to be conscious of how fast and clear I was talking as many children didn’t understand me initially. A lesson I was very proud of which allowed me to get to know the children better and vice versa, was an English comprehension lesson in paragraph writing. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and use it as a getting to know each other lesson whilst using it to meet the learning objective of writing a paragraph. For example, we constructed the paragraphs sentence starting with e.g. “My name is Lawrence and I like football and playing the guitar” to which they made their own relative versions and we delved deeper into this to form
informative paragraphs. I found this lesson was great at breaking down barriers and helped me to get to know the pupils and we ended up forming an endearing and positive relationship. Due to the success of this lesson, I am planning to use it on my transition day with my new school class next month. There were some cultural barriers to teaching that I faced also in terms of adapting to different cultures and ways of learning. I tried to flip some lessons, so the children were teaching me. We did a lesson called ‘our world our people’ which is like PSHE in this country. In this lesson we explored different people who have authority such as police officers and teachers. The children also mentioned people from their culture which I had no knowledge of such as the ‘Chief’, ‘Iman/pastor’ and ‘Assembley man’. I told the children that I am from England, and we do not have these people in our community, and I asked them to explain their roles and importance to me. This way allowed the learning objective to be achieved and also helped the children’s understanding as they had to be more detailed in what they were explaining. (And it was educational for me!). I also staged a Q+A session for the children to ask me anything they would like to know about living in the UK, from which I received many questions about the Royal Family!
I had a good relationship with the class teacher Michael who himself is a new teacher and as I like to do with any teacher I observe, I have taken bits which I will use in my own practice. This includes the use of ‘Clap for them/him/her’ to celebrate good work or a good answer. I liked the camaraderie this brought to the class where people were happy to celebrate other people’s success. I had introduced many traditional classroom games such as Simon says, heads down thumbs up, silent ball and hangman to the class which they all loved, and I have written the rules down for them to be able to continue enjoying playing.
In the early evenings after school, we all took part in leading sports sessions (football and netball) at Akwaaba’s sports project for underprivileged children. Again, the facilities and equipment were a challenge to adapt to as it was played in conditions that simply wouldn’t be acceptable in the UK, such as potholes, no grass and broken glass littered across the field. For the children though, these pitches were like Wembley Stadium, and it was so heartwarming to see such fun had. With my previous career being as a sports coach, which I still do now outside of school, it has been a lifetime ambition to coach sessions in a foreign country so to do so in such a parallel environment with some fantastic children was a dream come true.
This trip and experience, although only for a week, has left what I’m sure will have a life- long impact on me. It has taught me how to be more content with what I have, be more resourceful and as a teacher it has been an invaluable experience where I have had to adapt, and I can take my learning into my teaching career back home.