Alternative teaching methods

June 20, 2014

Every morning when we make our appearance at school, we encounter some students in front of the wooden table with the snacks, counting carefully their coins and ordering biscuits or juice. They are the first to notice us and call loudly our names with excitement. ” Li-lly, Li-lly, Li-lly”, sounds like a rhythmic children’s song and spreads from class to class successively. The kids shout, laugh and jump at the same time. It is the best start of the day. The most warm wellcome, that reminds me why I had traversed 6.000 km to be in La.

On the way to the class, some students climb to the windows and wave their little hands vibrantly. Once I enter the last classroom in the row, one by one my students summon me:
-Lilly…( They expect my response)
-Yes, please?
-You are wellcome! (They say with sparkling black eyes)
The same dialogue is reproduced about twenty times with unabated enthousiasm.

The prayer inaugurates the start of the lesson. First comes Maths, according to the timetable pined on the grey wall. Most of the students were assigned to solve little mathematical problems. Just a few though were behind at Maths, so they had an easier task: to write a number repeatedly in a whole page. Due to the minimal furniture of the class, there are no shelves or bookstore to keep the books and the pencils. Instead, everything is located on the teacher’s table. The pencils are in fact too small for me to even hold them properly. At the likely event of a broken pencil nose, a cutter is used by the teacher, not a sharpener. The erasers are also so scarce that their value raises vertically. Once the work is completed, the kids come up to the teacher’s table to show their colourful books. “I’m finish” they declare. This time, I was armed with thousands of stickers to award each student for his effort. When they see the sticker album they become at once overexcited- rushing to finish their work so they could get a valuable sticker. They intend to use it either as a decoration in their bags, or as a jewellery on their forehead. One is not satisfactory for the most of my little students who are frequently complaining that another classmate was given two stickers, or a bigger or a nicer one than theirs.

When Maths lesson has officially finished and the battle for the stickers as well, plenty of teaching time remains. In order to fill it productively I observe the room around me. Which of these precious little objects could be of any use? Aha! The most classic one. The blackboard! The other teacher announces to the class that I am going to teach them. I take a chalk and draw an empty room on the blackboard. “Who knows what there is in a kitchen?”. The enthousiastic students mention many kitchen devices, food, furniture. Then they appear on the blackboard, by my childish drawing skills. Sometimes the roles reverse since my students explain to me many interesting things about Ghanian cuisine and other Ghanian habits. My trick works. They stay focused on the game and ask for more. So, a jungle, zoo, sea, follow.

The game triggered our appetite. The ritual of the lunch did not take long to start. Today’s menu includes rice with fish in a green sauce.

After lunch, a familiar commotion prevails in the school. The dance teacher has arrived by his bycicle, carrying a big drum. Twelve of my students participate with great joy in the graduation’s choreography. The sound of the drum, intertwined with the voice of the teacher and the happy kids created a cheerful atmosphere.

Most of the students who did not take part in the dance, remain in the classroom. I am under the opinion that they should be engaged in some equally interesting activity as their classmates. Thus, I tear the pages from the drawing book I had brought from Athens and distribute it. The pages were not enough for everyone though. I suggest that two students share one sheet, which was double-fache, while I and the teacher were copying some of the drawings for the rest of the kids to colour. Fortunately, my coppying skills outweigh my free design ones. In the end, every kid coloured a dragon, a boat, a fairy, a rabbit and many more cartoons. Looking at the bright side, shoestring fosters creativity and unity.

At three o clock the school day comes to an end. Every time that I unhang my bag, worried faces look at me and ask :
“Are you goin?”.
” I am going home now, but I will come back tomorow.”
At the sound of my answer, they regain their usual carefree expression and greet me grining. “Bye. Bye!”

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