Monday morning was my first day at the school. The moment I arrived, the students began chanting something in Dagbani (which I later found out translates to “white lady” – ha) yelling “Hello! Hello!” and fighting with one another to grab my hand. It was quite a welcome, to say the least!
Titagya currently has four classrooms, two for the older students (4-5 years) and two for the younger (3-4 years). The school has definitely grown in the last two years – they’ve expanded to include both preschool and kindergarten, with four classrooms instead of the original two. One of the teachers, Azeez, told me that the school currently has around 115 students, about 30 per class. Habib told me it’s Titagya’s goal to build schools in neighboring districts as well, and they have just begun building a new school, not too far from Dalun!
School starts at 8 am, and at 9 the students have an hour break during which they eat meals they brought; class resumes at 10, and another break follows at 11, with school ending at 12 – the hottest time of day. During the breaks the teachers sit around and chat, while the kids run around and play. The boys and most of the girls seem to love football (and by football, of course I mean soccer), and for such young kids, they’re quite good! They’re not allowed to kick the ball around during the second break, though, for the sun is much too hot. During the second class session, it’s quite amusing to see how many children are drifting off to sleep in their seats – I guess they’ve tired themselves out, running around during break. (I imagine it’s how us college students look like early in the morning, too.) In order to wake them up, the teacher often has the kid(s) go outside and job laps around the building.
Each class starts with a “greet”:
Students: Good morning sir/madam!
Teacher: Good morning! How are you?
Students: We are fine, thank you sir/madam, and you?
Teacher: I am fine also.
Every adult male is a “sir” and adult female a “madam” – when the students want to answer a question in class, they raise their right hands and yell out (more like scream out!) “Sir! Sir! Sir! Sir!” until they get picked on.
Most of the teaching is done in Dagbani, at least for the younger kids. Each teacher, though, has his or her own style and particular presence. A few days this week I was given the chance to take over the two older classrooms for a brief 15-20 minutes or so, continuing lessons in math and English (counting numbers and sound combinations). The teachers of the two classes, Alhassan and Azeez, have two very different teaching styles – Azeez is softer, with his patience controlling the class, while Alhassan has a much more visibly commanding presence, and the children know not to goof off when he’s around. He also generally only speaks English in the class, while the other teachers infuse Dagbani. When he says “what is this number?” or “count loudly so we can hear,” it’s amazing how the kids listen and respond.
Not amazing is how the students didn’t listen to me when I said those same things. I could see some of the students (particularly the little girls) taking advantage of a new adult in the classroom (fresh meat, if you will?), but in the end it wasn’t all so bad. The students just mostly seem very excited to have me around – perhaps too excited to focus on the lesson! It’s definitely hard to control a class full of excited children when the only commands they really seem to know in English are “sit down” and “be quiet,” but it was only my first chance to teach here, and I’m looking forward to future lessons. I’ll say this, though: teaching to non-native English speakers is much, much harder than I thought it would be.