This was a fun little “ego booster” that appeared on my school’s website D:
Teacher Serves in Africa
This summer was extraordinary: as an educator and interpreter, I traveled to Cape Coast, Ghana, Africa to work with Ghana National Deaf Children’s Society (GNDCS), an organization that teaches, advocates, and coordinates services for deaf children.
Initially, before I started researching Ghana, I pictured the Disney movie, The Lion King. After reading several travel books focused on Ghana, I felt somewhat prepared and ready for anything – just flying by the seat of my pants!
The friendliness of the people made things go pretty smoothly. Ghanaians help each other without a second thought. If there’s a stalled car in the middle of the road, everyone around will stop and get out to push it out of the way.
In Ghana, my role was to advise GNDCS personnel about how they can better fulfill their mission of providing for and supporting deaf children in Ghana. The challenges the organization faces are numerous: late diagnosis of hearing impairment, poverty, lack of technology, cultural stigmas about hearing aids, and lack of information about deafness.
I experienced several memorable moments during my time in Ghana — from students checking for my immunization scar to the time I was “tasted.” On many occasions, I was inspired by resourcefulness of the Ghanaians. For example, in a situation where we would use rope or bungee cords to tie down pallets, they reused plastic bags and tied them together to make a long piece of “rope”; then using that, they tied down their cargo. Amazing.
I was particularly aware of the vast differences among educational systems. In Ghana, it isn’t uncommon for a teacher to have another commitment or have a last minute something pop up and leave the students on their own for the day. I happened to be in such a classroom one day and have the opportunity act as a substitute teacher. I wrote on the board the fill-in-the blank exercise that the head teacher had left for the students to complete. As they turned in their work, I graded each one and was surprised at the low marks. I was heartbroken about the lack of book knowledge these students have, or rather, all that they have not been provided.
It really hit me hard and made me appreciate, more than I ever have in my 31 years, that I live and work here in the United States where there are standards and specific practices for teaching. I was grateful also that, although there are still major hurdles to overcome, in the U.S., “disability” is handled more constructively than in many places.
I gained a great deal of humility while serving in Ghana and I hope to share that this year with Cassingham students. The Ghanaian people are grateful for every ounce of anything they have. Whether it’s a pencil or a pair of unbroken sandals to wear to church, the “make do with what you’ve got” attitude is definitely prevalent there.
The other thing that will seep into my work here in Bexley is a never-ending drive to better myself and my surroundings. Although much of the area I visited is extremely impoverished, those who have had the opportunity to receive an education aren’t merely satisfied with basic levels – they want to go as far as they can. I expect to model that attitude for my Bexley students. As I share my newfound knowledge of Africa with students here, I hope that they in turn will gain an appreciation for all that they have and all the opportunities that await them in their future.
This piece by Amanda Kaiser, ASL interpreter at Cassingham Elementary School in Bexley, was originally published in This Week in Bexley.