Sunday, November 10, 2013

Week 2 Photojournal

It is hard to believe I am already writing a photojournal for my second week of classes here. I am beginning to take over more classes, and I hope I can write more posts like the first one I wrote about one of my students.

"Unique Students"
Tried to take an artsy photo... I'm going to
stick with teaching. 

     While my friend Emmy and I were working on some lesson plans in the school library, she showed me a quotation that she really likes. It reads, “Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either. People are simply unique, incomparable.” I believe that students must be treated exactly the way this quote describes. Students may be smarter than others, students may act out more than others, or students may not care as much as others, but none are better or worse than any other. After I read this quote, it floated around in my brain for a few days, and finally, on Thursday, when I was teaching my first lesson, I saw the quote come to fruition.
            There is a boy who sits in the back of one of my classes named Joseph. When I went around and introduced myself to each student and asked their names, the teacher warned me in front of the class that Joseph is stubborn and does not listen. She said that I must keep an eye on him because he will not be good. I thought this was a fairly harsh introduction, especially because I did not know the student at all. He was immediately labeled as a “bad kid.” While I knew I could not jump to conclusions, I could not help seeing the boy and thinking “bad kid.” Throughout the week, I saw my teacher cane him for offenses that she allowed other students to get away with. After she did that, she would often ridicule him about how he is a bad kid, and how small his ears are. She always treated him like a bad kid. Looking back to the quote, she saw him as “inferior” to other students and treated him as so.
            I knew that Joseph could not be as bad as she frames him to be. Whenever I walk around campus and I see Joseph, he always shakes my hand, or gives me a respectful salute. I sometimes use his native language of Twi to ask him how he is doing, and he smiles and tells me he is fine. I was and am still finding out that Joseph is not a bad kid, but just is different from others. He needs to be shown that people care, and I have been showing him that I do, despite how my teacher treats him.
            Joseph proved himself to me on Thursday when I taught my first lesson. Sometimes, when the teacher does not want to hear from Joseph or other students, she tells them they are on “probation” and cannot talk. I made it a point to tell him and those other students that while I was teaching, they could raise their hands and participate as much as they want. When the lesson began, and I began asking for volunteers to answer questions and read, Joseph’s hand shot up in the air every single time. Not only was I impressed at how often he was participating, but I was also impressed at his answers and his reading ability, something that my teacher may not have seen because she does not give him the opportunity. It even got to the point in the lesson where I had to ask someone other than Joseph to answer a question. I was so proud of him that class, and I think he will continue to respond to me throughout the rest of the time I am in his classroom.
            Joseph is not a prefect, he does not sit in the front row of the class, and he is sometimes goofy in class, but that certainly does not make him a “bad kid.” I am slowly learning that while some students are similar, I will have as many different personalities as I have students, and I must treat them as not superior or inferior to one another, but as unique, incomparable human beings.

"Teacher Room"
My view of the "Teacher Room"

This picture was shot from the back of the “Teacher Room.” Every Wednesday at first break (from 9:20-9:50), we are invited to eat breakfast with the other teachers. The school provides fresh bread with jam or margarine, hardboiled eggs, and tea. As the picture shows, the room gets filled with teachers. From the looks of it, not one teacher misses this meal. Also take notice of the foreground of the picture, and the many exercise books stacked on the two teachers’ desks. Not only does this room serve as a giant, loud cafeteria, but as a workspace for every teacher at the school. This provides a very interesting dynamic that I think is beneficial for the overall success of the school.           
In my short experience with being the teacher in a high school and not the student, I have found teacher’s lounges and faculty rooms to be cliquey and separated, just as high school can be. At the KNUST Basic School, the “Teacher Room” serves as a combination of teacher’s cafeteria, main office, individual teachers’ offices, faculty room, and teacher’s lounge. While this may seem like an overwhelming combination, I believe a room like this is beneficial to the chemistry between teachers (within content area and outside) and can help to build an important camaraderie among the staff.
While I’m sure there is plenty of hanging out and fooling around among the teachers as there is in every school (I can’t understand a lot of what they say to each other), I have taken notice of a few instances that show the benefits of this gigantic, multi-purpose room. During the breakfast, while everyone was present and kind of quiet because they were eating, what seemed like the principal made a few important announcements. Instead of having teachers stay after school and go somewhere for faculty meetings, the “meeting” was held briefly and was convenient for all teachers present. When the meeting was over, all of the teachers laughed and joked together, and they walked around and caught up with each other.
The room is nice because I know that my teacher will usually be in there if we are not in class, and I can go there with any questions I have. I am not sure if it is a coincidence or if content area teachers sit together, but when she had a question about what was being taught that year, she only had to turn to her left and ask the English teacher next to her. When the teacher to her left could not answer her question, she turned around and asked the English teacher that was sitting behind her. It was as easy as this, and all of the teachers, including myself, were on the same page regarding curriculum. In an American school, there would have been an email exchange, a walk downstairs or a phone call. I think this system is more convenient. Yes, and email is quick and easy, but I feel like the human-to-human interaction can help in certain situations.
            As I have mentioned too many times, the schools here are different. Maybe this set up only works in this school because it is all they have, and what they are forced to endure. I know there are some teachers who prefer to stick to themselves and mind their own business who may be reading this and disagreeing with me, but as a pretty social being, I think I would enjoy this set up; specifically the quick, convenient responses and fun, close environment. 

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