First day on the job

My first night of sleep in Esaase was nothing more than some tossing and turning. I think that somewhere between 3am and 6am I caught a few hours of shuteye but the dogs barking/fighting outside, coupled with the loud buzz of insects and the emptiness of my room made it difficult to relax and fall asleep.  The only window in my room faces the courtyard of the school and I’m so glad I brought ear plugs because these kids wake up at 4:45 in the morning! I am attributing the sleeplessness to being abroad, in a new environment and I should be fine in a few days once I get into a routine.  I heard a knock at the door around 6:45am and knew it was time to get up. I peeled a sweaty sheet off of my body and headed for the bathroom, turned on the faucet, washed my face, squatted underneath the faucet and scrubbed myself a bit. Voila! Ready for work in 5 minutes flat! As I walked outside, Mr. Boateng greeted me and told Tabea and I to sit in the library to enjoy our breakfast. We received a loaf of white bread and some packets of instant coffee, a jug of hot water and a knife to cut the bread-Somewhat different from my normal routine of organic yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, OJ and Starbucks. Tabea and I chatted a bit and I learned that she was not feeling good. We sat there trying to pin down what she could have eaten differently than me and the only thing we could come up with was the pool water (they have a small swimming pool here) that she was repeatedly dunked in by the children yesterday after she arrived. She thinks that at some point, she ingested the pool (well) water and possibly got a minor parasite. (I’m happy to report that she was feeling better within 24 hours).  After breakfast we went outside and observed the children lining up for school, saying the pledge, singing the national song and then Mr. Boateng introduced us to the 500 children in grades K-6 or stages K-6 as they call the grades here.  I was introduced as “mama Ghana” because I was wearing the Ghana Black Stars soccer jersey.

Me in my Black Stars jersey pre-departure at O’Hare

After introductions, I learned that first and third graders would be coming to the computer lab and I was to teach them for the day.

The computer room… bearing an uncanny resemblance to the lab at Avoca West 😉

I found out that the schedule allows for one hour of computers per grade level twice a week but that it is up to me to decide how long they should stay each day. I had no problem keeping them for the hour because they were excited to learn. I also had no idea what the students had learned up to this point but after just two hours of seeing those two grade levels, I have a much better idea of where to go from here…well, sort of. Computer class was a series of troubleshooting power issues (I have since made the power more stable by moving some machines around and adding some new power converters) and the students practiced maneuvering the mouse with the Microsoft Paint program.  I had the 3rd graders brainstorm different solids, liquids and gasses and I am hoping that within a few weeks they can use the mouse then draw an example of one of these. We didn’t get farther than moving the mouse around, changing the color palette and drawing/filling in circles and squares. In first grade we just worked on our mouse skills. Most of the students were able to make some sort of color appear on the screen and we struggled a bit with the whole hand eye coordination thing but that is always tough at first.

Tabea and I had a relaxing lunch and took our time eating white rice topped with a tomato stew. We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around the school, observing the teachers and trying to survive the humidity.

Things do move slower here due to the heat and humidity. It can be a real kick in the butt to have no relief during the day but at night things really cool down and it’s completely tolerable, especially since they have ceiling fans around the school.

One thing I forgot to mention is that although English is considered the primary language here, children first learn to speak Twi, the native language before they learn English. Once they get to second or third grade their English begins to develop but everyone is raised speaking Twi so their accent is thick and there is definitely a noticeable communication barrier between me and the younger students as well as many of the adults but we are learning! Overall, I am definitely adjusting to rural life better than I thought I would. The Boateng family is amazingly generous and friendly, I feel completely safe and the students are so adorable and eager to learn. I am able to hop on the Internet for about 5 minutes but Internet Explorer times out before my blog will load so a day so I plan to write my posts on MS Word and post when I can!

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About Kim Zimmer

I am a technology integration specialist at Vail Mountain School in Vail, Colorado. My passions include training teachers in the use of technology, teaching technology to students, listening and playing music and travel.
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