Saturday, January 14, 2012

Teaching and Learning at Bakpa Avedo

No one can prepare you for the emotions of going to Bakpa Avedo School.   We drove to the school for the first time Thursday morning.  After a 20 minute ride, mostly on dusty, bumpy dirt roads, we approached the village.  Villages in this region are located close to the road and many have small market tables with various fruits or breads.  As you pass you can see animals roaming and people of all ages working, playing and talking to each other.   Bakpa Avedo looks like any other village, except this is our village, the one we already know. Children ran from every direction toward the school and the bus.  If you had been unaware, you might have thought the President of Ghana and his motorcade had arrived.  Yet, these children were welcoming US.  It was an emotional moment that can hardly be articulated.  I believe it will be a moment we never forget.
The school is a K-8 school that serves several villages in the Togo Region of Ghana.  Each BSC student prepared to take his or her place teaching with a co-teacher and writing lessons for two full weeks in the classroom.  This was a difficult task, not only because preparing to teach for two weeks is daunting, but our young adults had no idea what to expect of these children.
Our first day was overwhelming.  The village's community came out to a wonderful celebration of welcome.  Community leaders talked of the anticipation with which they have awaited our arrival.  There was singing, dancing, hand-shaking, and “toasting” with homemade libations.  These symbolic gestures have served to solidify the communities of Birmingham-Southern College and Bakpa Avedo .  We are all Ghanaians now. 

Though the BSC students were introduced to their children and spent a little time in the classroom, the second day was a full day in the classroom with complete responsibility.  As teachers and administrators stood watch, the BSC students took over the classrooms with genius ideas and unlimited energy.  Children were so excited about school after the first day with our students, the classroom filled to overflowing on day two.  In one classroom there were 40 or more children, sharing desks, pencils, and paper. 
As one might expect, the language barrier has been challenging.  Teachers in American schools often anticipate working with a few English Learners.  However, they rarely expect to teach an entire classroom of English Learners who all know the same language that they do not.  The language barrier has created the need for gestures, visual aids, and pantomiming, all of which have instigated laughter and the atmosphere of cooperation between student and teacher.  It has been quite a magical metamorphosis. 
Today the school was alive.  The sounds of music, laughter and reading aloud floated in and among the classrooms.  Children read, counted, wrote words and stories, drew pictures of plants, made cars of recycled water bottles, learned words in English, and learned about the weather.  And, the children taught their teachers (students from BSC) words in their language, Ewe.   In the fourth grade class, Cynthia Andrews asked, “Do you want to sing the song again?”  One little boy piped up, “No, I want to learn!”   Learning was happening everywhere you turned and it was magic!
After a full, hot, exhausting day of teaching, we took a walking tour of the villages.  The pride in the faces of those who welcomed us at each stop was evident.  They were proud of their homes, their children and their school.  Children followed us everywhere and brought the entire village to catch a glimpse of their very own teacher! 
Our main purpose in coming to the Bakpa Avedo School is to create an atmosphere in the school that makes the children love to learn.  Watching their faces today, there is no doubt that we are on our way!
Everyone wanted to watch and learn!

1 comment:

  1. Great report! We love following your adventure!