Saturday, January 17, 2009

Classroom Chaos-- A Day in the Life of an Orphanage Volunteer Teacher in Ghana

I walked into the classroom at New Life with great trepidation. A tremendous noise was coming from that room, and I dreaded what I would see.

I saw children, children everywhere. Classes 1, KG1, KG2, and Nursery were all held in this room. That meant 50 children ages 2 to 7 in one room. If you've never seen that many kids of that age together, you wouldn't believe the noise that can be made.
I wanted my verandah back.

Some of the Nursery class eating lunch, 2008

In 2005, I had taught the nursery class at the orphanage on a verandah because there were no classrooms. Back then, Nursery had consisted of ten kids between 2 and 7 years old. Though it wasn't a real classroom, it was at least our very own. I didn't know how I was possibly going to teach the fifteen or so children that now made up nursery in a room this noisy. Not to mention the fact that nursery now really meant nursery-- none of the kids in the class were older than 4.

Shallee on the verandah with the nursery class, 2005
Catherine waved me over to the bouncing, chatting nursery corner. We would be teaching together, which I was happy for. Not only would we be able to help each other, but I was happy to have finally met Catherine, whom I'd only had email contact with previously. The teaching began. It consisted of us shouting out colors, numbers, and stories, trading places when our voices got tired. Coloring was my favorite part of the day because it didn't require me to yell, but I did eventually lose my voice for about a week.

Alice, left, and her friends color in nursery, 2008

And yet, hard as it was, I was happy to be back at New Life teaching. Though I was only there every other day because of my responsibilities at Sankofa, I loved being back in this familiar place. I loved looking across the room and seeing Benjie and Adjoa, who had been in my original nursery class, busily writing in their books in class 1, knowing I had had at least a small hand in helping them get there. I loved talking with the kids in my new class in Fante, trying to help them understand the very basics of education. I loved playing with the children at breaktime, and watching them on the new playground equipment. I loved getting to know Catherine, my fellow teacher.
Shallee on the playground with some of New Life's children, 2008

But I definitely did not love that classroom. It severely limited the learning potential of all the children-- there were just too many of them in one room. New Life is now trying to build an additional classroom onto the school building, hoping to separate the classes so they can actually hear their teachers speak. If you would like to donate to this project, please head over to Catherine's website, Children's Helpers Worldwide, and make a donation to New Life's classroom fund!

Shallee and Catherine outside the classroom with some of the children, 2008

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