Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arrival to Accra/ First Day of School

On Sunday afternoon I arrived safely in Accra, Ghana. Both of the flights, from Chicago to New York and New York to Accra went smoothly. When Jessica and I got here we were greeted at the airport by Mrs. Batsa (Auntie Agnes), her husband (Daddy) and the HEAT! Both Auntie and Daddy are very generous, friendly, and like to tell stories The heat of the other hand is not so nice! On Sunday, we were given time to un-pack, rest, and then Auntie cooked us an American meal of beef, rice and vegetables. Our house is very large and we have about 5 different families living with us, I'm slowly trying to learn who everyone is. Our first night in Accra was very unpredictable. I was awoken at 4:30am to a loudspeaker in a different language, with the only thing I understood being "akwaaba" which means "welcome" in the native language of Twi ( pronounced "ch-wee"). I found out later from Auntie that this announcement is a prayer that is said for the Muslims in the area and comes from the Muslim Monastery every morning. Another thing that I learned my first night is that there is a "wonderful" rooster who crows repeatedly every morning just to make sure that I never miss my alarm. I'm not sure if that rooster will last my whole stay, I might ask Auntie to cook him for supper. :)

On Monday, we were able to sleep in and take the day off from school, due to our extreme jet lag. We got a tour of the neighborhood from Kwesi, our "househelp" and Auntie took us to the school we would be teaching at to meet the Headmistress, teachers, and students. The students were very excited to see Jessica and myself and they kept chanting songs about us being white foreigners. All in good fun, of course. It was a very different feeling to feel like you are on display, with students staring at you, wanting to hold your hand, and touching your hair or skin. After our short visit to the school, Daddy and Auntie took us to the MaxMart in town to pick up groceries for our breakfast. They have Cheerios and Skippy peanut butter here! They also have strange milk, cheese, and butter that doesn't get refrigerated in the store... it's very interesting.

Today was my first day of school at Ancilla Primary and Junior High School. I am teaching in KG. 1A (Pre-Kindergarten) and have 29 four year-olds in my classroom. I was told that I would also be teaching lessons to the other KG. 1B classroom during my stay. The classrooms are the same but split up so that they are more manageable for the teachers. The schools are VERY different than those found in America.Writing about them here doesn't really do the experience justice. The discipline techniques that are used, as I was warned are not legal in America. The teachers frequently "cane," hit, and slap the students when they are talking or not following directions. Also, this is a Catholic school and so they start the day off with an assembly where all of the students line up and recite prayers. The students then branch off to their individual classrooms while marching to the drums, circling their rooms until the drums stop.

During instruction, the students are advised to follow directions so that they can learn and "leave" Accra. I was introduced to the class as being from America and having lots of things to teach the students. The teacher also said that they must be on their best behavior for me so that they can go to America. This comment made me incredibly uncomfortable. During instruction throughout the day, the teacher shows the students examples and then much of student work is completed out of "readers" or workbooks. My students currently are learning how to write the letters l, m, n, and numbers 16, 17, and 18. I was amazed at how many students could use regular pencils, holding them the correct way and then writing letters legibly! I talked with the teacher today and we discussed learning new things from each other and that she'd like me to teach something tomorrow. I'm a little nervous but excited to try new things with the students! I hope they understand me, I wasn't aware that my dialect would be soooo different than everyone here. The kids that live in my house always joke around that they don't know what I am saying. Another teacher at my school told me that he would teach me some Twi so that I can understand and communicate with people who aren't good at English. That sounds great.

Well, that's all for my first post, I'll write again soon.


  1. Glad to hear that you have arrived and are well. The kids have already been asking about you, so we will be checking out your blog later this week! Mindy

  2. Dear Sara,

    What great observations! We are so proud of you here at Stritch! You will carry these stories with you for the rest of your life. Please let us know if you need anything.

    Laine Philippa, Stritch International Office

  3. Hey Sara!

    It's great and amazing to read about your experiences so far! I am blown away by the amount of detail you've included and I think to myself, "What a brave person to go somewhere so different for student teaching!"

    I am glad to hear that you are liking your experience so far, and I hope to continue to read more about it soon!

    God bless,

  4. Hi Sara,

    Nice Blog .. Looking forward to hearing more! Any way to see pictures? Good Luck and stay safe!


  5. That was a very interesting blog Sara! having lived in Minnesota and not traveling out of the country (besides to Canada) its hard to see outside the box and actually get a picture of what it's like in other places but you have done an amazing job explaining. Happy to hear you are having a good time! have fun and be safe!!! :-)

    PS: Good luck with that rooster lol