The post that got away and…Ducks in Kumasi

In keeping my promise to post more about my daily life at the school, here is the post that got away, from Friday plus, a bit about my day with the Ducks!

On Thursday at ECSO I taught 4th grade, 2nd grade and a spontaneous English lesson in 5th grade. Stage 4 (4th grade) is now in the swing of coming into the computer lab in shifts. Around fifteen kids for 20 minutes each and then we switch three times. Despite having a much less time in the lab, they are actually having more contact time with the computer and we are getting much more done in 20 minutes than we used to with 45 kids, 11 computers and around 20 seats. You do the math. I challenged the fourth graders to draw something using just the 4 shape tools in the MS Paint program. I actually had them gather around one of the computers for a demo today which worked much better than me showing them on the chalkboard with a mockup screen and toolbar drawn. They are still having major issues using the computer mouse and holding down the left click button as they maneuver the mouse around, but I feel like we made some progress today and I even saw a few houses (made of squares) come out of the activity. In 2nd grade, we practiced just the square tool. They learned how to put their cursor in one area of the screen, click the left click button, hold and drag the mouse down and away.  I spent time with each student or group of two with my hand on top of theirs, guiding them around the screen until they were able to do it on their own.  At the very end of the lesson they learned that the paint bucket will fill the square with a color. The tough part was clicking on the paint, then the color, then the shape. Three clicks. Not easy. The language barrier was difficult again today in both classes but we more or less accomplished what I was hoping to accomplish in 20 minute increments. In between the two classes, I decided to go on a walk to find out what the kids were learning in 5th grade so I could plan for Friday’s activity. I’m going all Avoca West here and trying to train the computer teacher to communicate with the classroom teachers to reinforce concepts the kids are learning in the computer lab so they begin to make connections between computers, their learning, and using computers for productivity. Let’s just say that this concept is not really sinking in. So far, learning how to use the mouse has been a very slow process and new students come in every day who have never touched a computer before so I will feel as though I made an impact if I can get the computer teacher to engage the students in activities, practice and repetition until the skill is learned each and every time they are in the computer lab as opposed to reading out of an ICT book and letting them navigate the computer on their own.  Anyway, back to my story…As I wandered down to 5th grade, I noticed a few of the kids peeking out from behind the door. When I arrived at the classroom and asked for the teacher, the kids told me she was not there. I asked where she was and they said she was in Kumasi. 44 kids (maybe more), unsupervised, sitting in their classroom alone…all day…with no teacher. Yikes. I guess there is something to be said about the fact that none of them were fighting, desks were not overturned, there were not paper airplanes and spit balls all over the floor and most of them were just sitting with their heads down. As I entered the classroom, they erupted in applause and said, “Ms Madamme has come to teach us!!!!” So, there I was, panicking, teacher instinct set in and I knew that I could not let these kids down. I went next door and asked the 6th grade teacher if she could help me out at all. It was then that I realized she was teaching both classes of kids by hopping back and forth but really just monitoring the 5th graders and not teaching.  To my surprise and without hesitation, she handed me the English Stage 5 teachers guide and said, “they are learning how to write a letter. You will teach them.” I am not sure if she was posing a question or stating a fact so I went with it, grabbed some chalk and became the English teacher. With the help of the kids, I was able to figure out where they left off and picked up with the five parts to a semi-formal or friendly letter: address, date, salutation, body of letter and subscription. When I asked for an example of an address, nobody could give me one. A kid finally stood up and said, “Madamme, we do not have an address.” So, I did what I could and showed them an example of what an address could look like. I remembered Rahman’s address and then the ECSO address flashed before my eyes…both P.O. boxes. Then, I remembered seeing an enormous warehouse type of building that was just mailboxes in Kumasi. At the same time that these realizations were happening, I could not recall seeing a mail man anywhere in this entire country. It occurred to me that they do not in fact have addresses and the people who need to communicate with others outside of their village (not many) need a P.O. Box. So, I showed them an address with a P.O. Box and they nodded to confirm that they understood what I meant by an address. We continued to discuss the parts of a letter in greater detail and then we discussed an “official letter” where you would add the addressees information as well as a header. As I stood there clutching the chalk, I realized how long it had been since I wrote a letter. I decided to be the 21st century educator for a moment and ask how many of them had heard of a type of mail you use on the computer. Negatory. So, I briefly explained email and told them that when they get older, they can get mail on the computer. Some of them understood what I was talking about and thought this was pretty cool while others just looked at me with a blank stare. After teaching the lesson, I had forgotten why I was down there in the first place until one of the students reminded me that they had computers tomorrow (Friday). Oh yeah! I was looking for a way to connect what they were learning to computer class. Maybe it was fate that I wound up teaching them how to write a letter and they just happened to be coming to computers tomorrow. We will write letters using Microsoft Word!!! Something tells me that we may only get as far as writing the address but I’m going to be optimistic!

Fast Forward to Friday at 10:00, an hour before Stage 5 is supposed to be coming to computers to learn how to type a letter. I am sitting in the computer lab and drafting an example letter to be printed (we got the printer working earlier in the morning) and passed out so they have something to refer back to as they type. I was able to print 11 copies which seemed like small miracle. With an hour to spare, I had the computer teacher’s attention so I began showing her keyboard shortcuts and how to insert clip art and the students MS Paint projects into Microsoft Word. I also showed her how to use simple data to make a graph using Excel. In the midst of rocking her technology world, POOF! LIGHTS OUT! COMPUTERS OFF! The hiss of computer monitors after they have just been shocked. AARGH! Throw me a bone Ghana!  Well, at least I have a lesson for the 5th graders for next week…as long as we have power.

On Friday during the day I received a call from Leslie Steeves who is in charge of the Oregon study abroad program, Media In Ghana. I managed to make it to the internet cafe in Kumasi to write my last post and catch up on email then made my way to the Duck hotel just outside of town. It was great seeing Leslie and chatting it up with the Oregon kids about their adventures. Leslie and I also had some laughs about the trip that I was on in 2002. According to her our trip in 2002 was a disaster. According to me and probably the rest of the U of O students, it was a complete blast from start to finish. She recapped many of the funny mishaps from our trip that had slipped my memory and we shared many laughs. The rain was coming down pretty heavy at this point and I was planning to return back to Esaase for the evening then head back in the morning to join them for a day of touring around an area of Kumasi that I did not have the time, the knowledge or the funds for. Leslie is the most generous person and is treating me like I am one of her students again.

I’m sitting in the Treasure Land Hotel right now using their FREE WI-FI. What a treat! Leslie treated me to a fantastic day in some of the small craft villages outside of Kumasi. Today we traveled to Bonwire (the kente weaving village), Ntonso (Adinkra stamping village) and finally, a wood carving village en route back to Kumasi.

Me weaving Kente cloth in Bonwire

We ate lunch at a fast food restaurant similar to a food court and then ventured into the abyss that is Kejetia Central Market. I opted to visit the cloth area instead of touring around the market at large. Kejetia Central Market is the largest open air market in West Africa, is right smack dab in the middle of the city and you can get lost for days winding through the narrow passages and people selling everything from cured meats and fish to animal parts/skins (one group spotted leopard skin),  car parts, plastics, fabrics, household items, electronics and the list goes on and on and on. It’s the nuttiest place I have ever been and I can’t wait to go back and explore some more before I leave. I was rather frugal today and purchased a few kente items, a few adinkra items and two pieces of cloth at the market that I hope to have made into skirts. I wanted to post more pics but it’s time for dinner! Chinese…YUM!


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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3 Responses to The post that got away and…Ducks in Kumasi

  1. Holli says:

    you rock my technology world! Way to save the day and teach that class. So glad you are feeling better!

  2. LD says:

    Love your stories Kim!

  3. rain drops says:

    Throw her a bone Ghana!

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