The last week and a half has been a continuous cycle of learning and adjusting. Just today, Saidah, Leslie, and I realized that maybe we aren’t as skilled in tro tro-ing (1) as we thought. We struggled for 15 minutes to get a tro tro going to Abrepo Junction (only a 5 minute drive). Then, we struggled another 10 minutes to find a tro tro that would drop us off near our service site until we finally gave in and took a taxi (but he only charged us 1.60 per person!)
Despite the various external issues that come with adjustment such as figuring out transportation or dealing with stomach bugs, I’ve been struggling the most with more internal aspects such as looking at the culture and society from an American standpoint or in comparison to it. I did not have much headspace to contemplate what life would be like in Ghana prior to arriving, since I was all wrapped up in finals and packing. Because of this, I did not come into the country or into Kumasi imagining that it would be a certain way. Nevertheless, once I arrived at the Louis Marie School, I realized that having preconceived notions of a country is not the only way to development an ethnocentric view as spaces are set up in our minds a certain way based on what we saw growing up. For example, schools to me looked like a place where students learned structure in regard to time and lesson plans. Because of this belief, I immediately began judging the set-up of the school without consciously attempting to do so. Though judgement can be constructive, I noticed that the thoughts in my mind came from what I thought was “right” or structured. While in the United States, schools tend to follow a very timely schedule, the teachers at the Louis Marie School improvise a lot when it comes to timing and the time table for the day. At first, it was a bit frustrating because my prior teaching experience had taught me that lessons should be set up purposefully to ensure that they fit the time constraints. However, I’ve come to realize that my beliefs have been completely constructed by Americans’ notion of time and orderliness. Additionally, a lot of my thoughts also came from the constant affirmation that somehow the American education system is superior (I have no idea who determined this, but the headmaster repeats this a lot indirectly). During one of the lessons in the later part of the day, the students continued to get distracted. Instead of punishing them or continuing with the lesson, the teacher simply said, “The mind is tired. You cannot force the mind.” To have this mindset is to accept that we are humans, we have limits, and we have to take breaks and just relax sometimes. Things do not have to be on a set schedule and can happen at their own pace. Also, the students are just kids, and they do not have the attention span to sit in a classroom for several hours at a time (Actually had never thought of this before coming here). This is not the mindset we have at all in the United States or at Davidson. We tend to work until we burn out. This meant so much to me that I hurried and wrote it down in my notebook. It seems so simple, but I had never seen it actually practiced in an educational setting. Auntie Sandra later explained to me that it did not matter if we continued with the lesson because the students would not be retaining the information. The time spent “learning” the information would be time wasted. This made complete sense, but I had never questioned the American perspective on time and productivity.
Not only had I let my American point of view affect my mindset coming into a new setting, but I had also let an isolated event (a rough first day) impact the way I understood discipline and teachings in the school. This blog post is not some sort of huge revelation that has allowed me to suddenly change and remove my American lens from my experience here as it usually happens subconsciously. Rather, I am consciously attempting to ignore those subconscious thoughts and try to experience Ghana as Ghana.
(2)https://www.ghananursing.org/educatio (Ghana’s education system)