Going to the Cape Coast slave castle

On Friday our group had a visit and tour of the Cape Coast slave castle, and learned of its grim history. I can’t do justice to this history here, nor do I fully understand it, but feel I must share something of this experience.

The site of the castle was originally built as a fort and trading post by the Swedes in 1653, and the castle proper by the British in 1665. Trading in gold was one of the initial reasons for the site, and apparently the castle changed hands many times. But soon the castle assumed an integral role in the transatlantic slave trade – it was from the interior of the country to slave castles such as this one, or the one at Elmina, that captives were brought and held in waiting before being transported. Our guide on Saturday — an articulate and well-informed young man fittingly named Justice — showed us the male slave dungeons where as many as 1,000 men would be held for weeks at a time waiting to be transported across the ocean.

Fourteen of us stood in this dank, underground stone chamber that was perhaps 15 feet by 25 and had only three small window cut in the walls 20 feet up. Barely a breath of air stirred. I cannot imagine how one thousand people could breathe in that space. Our guide showed us the slot from up above from which food would be thrown once a day. He took care to make sure we understood that all of the thousand men who were being held here had perforce to perform all bodily functions in this space. How could they have stood it? I would have wanted to die. He then brought our attention the the floor on which we stood. “In this chamber, do you see how you can see the brick floor?” he asked. “That is because we excavated the chamber. Imagine one thousand people in here, month after month, with all their waste and blood and sickness- you have to understand that all that matter collected, it could not drain, and it built up over the years. This chamber we excavated down to the brick original floor.” Then he led us to the next chamber. “Do you see how this floor is different? How it is not brick, how uneven it is? This is the built up matter of all those years.” And we stood there, in that dark and dank space, standing on a surface that you would have thought was an uneven packed earth floor. But then you realize you are standing on the packed accumulated waste and excrement and sweat and vomit and blood and tears of tens of thousands of suffering and miserable souls over years. Your entire being is repulsed, your heart and stomach clench, tears start in your eyes, but there is nowhere to go–You are stuck on the spot, knowing you are standing on their pain and misery.
It’s an awful, awful feeling. And you think maybe the only thing you can do is stand there and try to be aware and absorb some of that misery.

And I wondered about man’s inhumanity to man, and where it comes from. Another day I will have to try to articulate my thoughts on that–I also need much more education in this area. Some have pointed out how we make some the “other” and thus feel no compunction in maltreating them.i believe that is absolutely part of it. In the case of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I cannot help but think about about the naked amorality of the profit motive and what it has done over the years. All that pain and misery and brutality so that some could become wealthy. We stand on top of it. We need to beware of the spot on which we stand.









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A Satisfying Morning of Teaching

This morning I was scheduled to teach two lessons at Chemu Secondary School – a full class session for a group of ninth graders in the liberal arts section, and a mini-lesson for Charlotte’s all-girl Home Ec group. I was a bit nervous beforehand, but it was highly satisfying.

Lesson 1

I had really, REALLY wanted to meet or at least lay my eyes on the group of ninth graders I was slated to teach today. But our day of school visits yesterday took about three times longer than we thought, and we got back to Chemu too late. So I walked into this teaching situation completely cold – as in, no idea who these kids are or how many there would be. And, we had some delays in the foyer on our arrival to the school, so I got to the class a few minutes late – not great as my lesson was going to require every minute. I walked into the room and thought, “Good lord!” “How many of you are there?” I asked the class. “We are 65!” was the reply. Daunting. Then the teacher — who I had hopes to meet yesterday, but oh well – wanted to talk to me first. “Losing more minutes,” is what was going through my mind. I apologized for not being able to meet with him first. He said they had been working on predicates and adjectives–but since I hadn’t been able to meet with him, I had brought an unrelated lesson. More apologies. Small gift offering. And it was time to go teach that huge class.

I actually had the equivalent of two lessons to do — a min-lesson on Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, and then having the students receive and respond to the letters my Digital students had written for them. Thinking about our TGC global competences and the unit I had prepared for our class, I added on some from what I had done the day before. So today I introduced Maryland and the Baltimore Inner Harbor, the problem with trash in the harbor, and then the Chesapeake Bay and the issue of runoff. The students were so attentive and responsive! I explained that Baltimore was a port city like Tema, and asked if they saw any similarities in the issue Baltimore faces and where they live, and they all said, “oh, yes.” (By the way, the students I’ve met have the habit and training of frequently responding in unison and in chorus. It takes just a second to get used to, but it’s really great!). At the end of the lesson, I asked them to share either: a question they had for me, something they learned, or an idea to help solve the problems we discussed. They did some great sharing: “Besides the problem of trash and pollution, does Baltimore have other challenges?” “I learned that oysters filter the water.” “The government should pass laws against littering.” “There should be a public education program to teach people not to throw their trash in the ground.” “There should be more trash bins for people to use.”

After the class, the teacher commented that he was surprised by their comments. I tried to figure out what exactly he was surprised by and why…. He said basically, “They really had so many things to say…I guess we get used to thinking that they don’t want to study so we don’t think they have good ideas…they’re really quite smart…” Yes, they are! A vindication of bringing something interesting and relevant to students, and empowering and charging them with solving a problem. Success!



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From Accra to Tema

Today in Ghana–Thursday, March 20–we were due to travel to our host school site in Tema, a short ways east up the coast. Scheduled departure time was 9:00 AM sharp, and our host teacher Ms. Charlotte Asiedu-Musa at Chemu Secondary School had a full day planned for us.

What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men….

I felt really sluggish when I got up, and after gathering the last few things (fortunately I had packed the night before) and a shower, I went to go get some coffee in the buffet area before going. As soon as I stepped out into the heat (have I mentioned that we are here in Ghana at their hottest season of the year? And it’s humid, too) I felt like, “Oh no, this is not going to work….” I went on down anyway and tried a few sips of coffee. One of my traveling partners, Daphne was there — she had been down for the count yesterday, along with another cohort member, with the “traveler’s illness” which basically involves you staying within a few feet of a bathroom and/or in prone position — and I mentioned to her as a heads up that I wasn’t feeling great. And then about 3 seconds later I fled for the restroom. After this it became apparent that getting into a car for a long drive was just not a good idea. (Tema is actually very close, but when you are in that state, 10 minutes can be a long time.)

So I laid low for a little while and took stock of things. Fortunately there were others who communicated with Charlotte that we were off-schedule. Finally a few hours later it seemed like the coast was clear and we made our get-away. So at this point we were all a bit wilted — me, as described above; Daphne, from being ill all day yesterday; and our other traveling partner, Annette, who waited for three hours in the open-air hotel restaurant (i.e., not air conditioned). We arrived to the outskirts of Tema, the driver pulled over and we waited for Ekem to meet us and guide us to the school. We sort of remonstrated mildly–perhaps we could go to the hotel first? But Ekem was pretty strong in insisting that if we were up to it, we go to the school, and mentioned something like, “some of them have been waiting since 10 AM.” Ouch. That settled it, on we go.

Tema–which I haven’t seen a lot of yet–seems smaller and drier and dustier and bumpier than Accra. We made our way around to the school, and it’s a rather barracks-like looking place. Not nearly as fancy as the private school we went to. Like so many of the structures around here, built in an open-air fashion–cinderblock walls that have ventilation built in and window-like openings but no glass. We stood outside for a few minutes, then were summoned over to the entrance hall — rather dark and low ceilinged, where we were greeted by Ms. Charlotte and a number of others. Much hand-shaking, nodding, smiling, and “You are welcomes.” This was all very nice and to be expected. We could see a number of students gathered near the end of the hall, and a group of teacher-looking types were also clustered in a nearby doorway watching us. All the adults were busy taking pictures of us, and us of them, and more nodding and smiling.


Then came the ACTUAL welcoming committee! About four or five young men at the end of the passageway started drumming. Then a troupe of about 6 girls came out, in what seemed very traditional garb, and decorated across their whole bodies with daubs of clay, and proceeded to perform a traditional Asante welcome dance (the Asante are the legendary warrior tribe and kingdom.) And when I thought that they had expected us at 11:00 AM….chagrin….ah well, we made it, anyway. Here is the first part of that dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM-WQVczuxE


THEN (oh yes, wait, there’s more!) when they finished their dance, we all were led out the end of the passageway, around the corner and — Oh, lord — into a large hall that must be basically their auditorium — open weave of cinderblock walls, fans gently circulating, about 200 chairs set up and facing a raised dais on which there was a a table and three chairs. (Three? Get it? Kathleen, Daphne, and Annette). Daphne and I just looked at each other as in, oh boy, give me strength. One of those moments in life you weren’t expecting — to be the guest of honor.

So we girded our loins, climbed the dais, and took our seats–while about 100 or so uniformed students filled the seats facing us. I’m not sure I could have felt more ridiculous, or more honored. And THEN (yes) more drumming started, and a new dance troupe in entirely different outfits performed a welcome dance from the Volta region (very close to where we are). Then welcoming remarks were made by the deputy headmistress. She said something that really touched me–she said something like, “Welcome to these teachers from America…they are our sisters, our mothers, our teachers.” Wow. I think there may be a different cultural attitude towards teachers and education here….

Next we introduced ourselves, and I presented some certificates from IREX for the school and Ms. Charlotte. Pretty soon thereafter this portion of the welcome ended and we went to meet  some administrators. We got to look at photo albums and have a cool bottle of water (much needed by that point). But they knew I had been ill so thankfully we postponed the tour of the building til tomorrow. Charlotte sent us off the to hotel to rest and the long drive around town that had been scheduled we also skipped. It’s a pity, but it was a bit much to begin with and I don’t think I would have made it.

So that was our arrival to Tema and Chemu Secondary School. I must say, they really know how to throw a welcoming party!

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Tuesday in Ghana ~ At the Market

Yesterday (Tuesday) after we had our presentations on the Ghanaian education system and their labor unions, we were taken to the the “National Arts Center.” I experienced once again that feeling of, “I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.” I guess I hear “National Art Center” and I picture some big gallery hall. We pulled off one of the main city roads into a dusty little compound containing a maze-like warren of rather squat, low stall-type structures. I think if they called it a “textiles market” I would have been more prepared. So here pulls up this bus full of white lady tourist types (we have only one guy in our group, sorry Billy) and we pour out, relatively unsuspecting, into the market. Our guides, Ekem and Ophelia did seem to mention rather off-handedly, make sure you stay with one of us. Or, as I think I heard Ophelia say, “Make sure you stay with a black man.” But they didn’t seem stressed, so I wasn’t. And then a couple of us made a couple of steps towards the first stall nearest us, and it was like the vortex sucked us in….”Madam! Madam! How about this? A t-shirt? Madam! Some cloth, look here…..” They were polite but very insistent! As in, you were NOT getting out of there without buying something, or better, some things, or more likely, many more things than you had planned on getting. I was kind of turned around to the stall behind me by another vendor who was steering me towards his wares, asking what I wanted, and I did allow (mistake 1) as to how I was kind of interested in buying a couple of dresses for two baby girls. Oh, that set off a maelstrom of dresses being laid in front of me. Meanwhile that vendor’s buddies were all sort of shoving in offering other wares–a t-shirt? Some key chains? And I did allow as to how I sort of wanted to find a men’s shirt (mistake 2). Many more things were placed in front of me, I made a choice, picked out a couple of key chains, and I was ready to get out of there (meanwhile at this point there is no one I know in eyesight. Fortunately though I hadn’t ventured very far in to the warren of stalls–I was only about one stall depth into the buildings.) THEN came the price. I asked how much, and the vendor says, 400 Ghanaian (Cedis). Now, I don’t know much, but I knew that was ridiculous. That would have been like 200 or something dollars. I said, oh no way, that’s not right at all, and he quickly went into ok, what is your offer mode. (By the way, I should have mentioned from the beginning, I am a TERRIBLE haggler.) I said (mistake 3) there was no way those items were worth more that 200 Ghanaian Cedis — whereupon 200 became the new starting point. I still tried to say that wasn’t right, and so then he asked, “So how much do you want to pay? How much do you have?” And I was like, oh, no, I am not playing that game. So I just said, No no no, I have to go ask my friend (Ophelia) because I have to ask her what a good price is. Somehow I extricated myself from them (it was a bit sticky — not in a dangerous way, just a very insistent vendor way) and ran off to find Ophelia (good move, Katya). When I found Ophelia, I told her what I had picked out, and the original price they had given me. I wish I could describe the expression her face went into….She has a very calm demeanor, though a lovely smile and laugh when amused, but when she heard the 400 Ghanian Cedis price her whole face sort of contorted into an “Oh hell no” expression and she even said, “Where is he?” For a second I thought she was going to go and lay into him. But instead she took me by the hand and led me to some different vendors. With her help, I picked out almost the exact same type of items, plus 3 prints, and 4 strips of kente cloth, altogether for 170 Ghanaian Cedis. God bless her!

Later the original vendor cornered me at the cafe where I was having a Fanta with Daphne, and proceeded to harangue me for “not giving him a chance.” “Madam! You did not come back! You did not give me a chance! Madam! You waste my time! Madam! You must buy these key chains!” Daphne had a similar situation with another vendor, who really became rather unpleasant, going on and on, “You waste my time! You waste my time!” Until finally Daphne and I were like, You’re standing here wasting your own time yelling at us. Go away!

That all happened in about 20 minutes.

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Ghana Day 3 ~ Learning about Education

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday morning I overslept from the effects of a very full day previously, and staying up very late doing my two-day re-cap for the site . This blogging stuff takes some time! So today, Second Full Day in Ghana, I got up barely in time for the morning session. The hotel room does have a little electric carafe that you can use to heat up water, but I had already used the one little packet of freeze-dried instant Nescafe on Monday, and I don’t know if we get only one or if it’s an oversight, but they didn’t replace it. So I had to venture into the world sans hot caffeinated beverage (oh, the horrors! #FirstWorldProblems).  The fact of the matter is that I am just not hungry until I’ve been awake a couple of hours, so making it to the hotel breakfast buffet 10 minutes before our meeting was not an issue—just needed the coffee.

Our first session today was on the Ghanaian education system, and our presenter Chris Dowuona-Hammond gave an EXTREMELY thorough run-down of its history. It was very interesting to learn how the modern Ghanaian system evolved, through pre-colonialism through the missionary era, a socialist era, and into the modern day. While Ghana certainly seems to be struggling to modernize and update its system, the basic and fundamental questions it faces are similar to our own: What is education for? What is the point and purpose of a public education? What are we preparing students for, and how do we do so? What do schools and teachers need to teach students? How can they best do so? What is the status and state of the country’s current economy, and how can we prepare young people to have a viable place within it? As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, for all that the U.S. appears to be so much more advanced in its educational system, I am not at all sure that we have effectively answered those questions for ourselves!

One thing we’ve learned about the Ghanaian system—and you may have heard of this in other countries’ school systems—is that their classes are much, MUCH larger than U.S. classes. As in, classes can have anywhere from 45 to 65 students in one class! To most U.S. teachers, that will seem like pure insanity. I’ve been trying to understand it. As far as I have figured it out thus far, there is the basic cause and then a basic result that makes it feasible. The basic cause is that the system over the years has been primarily concerned with increasing ACCESS to education—ensuring that more students can actually go to school. However, there is not necessarily a sufficient number of teachers to staff the classrooms. Thus, when we spoke to our host teachers yesterday, one man said in response to a question about class size something like, Well, if the classes were smaller than we wouldn’t be able to educate as many children. And this is even given the fact that in order to become a teacher, you earn just a special 3-year teacher certificate from a teacher training college after high school—teachers are not actually required to get the traditional college degree. Then there is the basic result of this system of large class sizes, which seems to make it feasible: the pedagogical approach is of necessity very different. In the U.S. we’re all about participatory or experiential learning, peer-to-peer interaction, project-based learning, differentiated instruction, small group work, cooperative learning, etc.  A class of 65 might make these approaches daunting to difficult to implement, and so possibly teachers (I will see more soon, when we visit schools tomorrow and go off to our host sites on Thursday) rely more on direct instruction and lecturing. Our presenter kind of did that with us today – he basically talked at us for 2 and a half hours, no break, no “turn and talk to your partner,” no request for our input, no interactivity at all. I don’t mind it so much for myself for one day, but it made me wonder if that is what school or class is like for students in huge classes, and what good that actually does someone. That’s one thing our course on globalizing education focused on—that one of the global competencies is that students be able to work with peers in diverse, flexible, and heterogeneous groups in order to meet the demands and challenges of the future.

Alright, well—I’ve just written a page and I’ve gotten up to about 11:30 AM of this day, and my thoughts on it. The Wi-Fi in the hotel room doesn’t work – now I understand why everyone was always traipsing on down to the common area in the restaurant’s breezy open-air restaurant. They weren’t being cool and sociable, they were just seeking a network connection! I stayed in my room because after a very full day today and an early start tomorrow, I needed some quiet time.  Hopefully later I can share my thoughts on commonalities between education unions transnationally, being a white tourist in a Ghana textile market, cows on the beach, cool Ghanaian people, and the weirdness of eating Spanish tapas in Accra. Fun stuff. And there’s still the Coolness of Last Friday, Part 1: Carlamarie and Sally that I need to write. Peace.

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Ghana, First Days

Saturday – Sunday, Arrival Day

I’ve noticed before that an airplane trip can be reflective of the destination, and this trip was definitely like that. The airplane ride was a warm-up to Ghana – full of Ghanaian nationals and expats returning to with loads of family and baggage. Unfortunately one woman had a medical emergency—I’m not sure what—about an hour and an half out of JFK. They actually did announce over the intercom, “If there is a doctor in the house, please contact the flight crew.” And there were two doctors on the plane, and together with the flight crew they all helped the woman to be more comfortable. It was a little hairy for  minute though, with my seatmate and I exchanging glances like, “Oh boy, what is going to happen?”

Arriving to the airport I guess I was surprised – I thought it would be a little more – I don’t know – Well, I’ve never been in an African country. I guess I thought it would be a little more developed, the airport anyway. It’s perfectly serviceable. Just a bit rough around the edges, plain and drab. Coming out of the gate, you are greeted by a huge sign that says something like (I have to paraphrase because you are not allowed to photograph official or governmental structures or buildings),



We welcome all people to Ghana and we hope you enjoy your stay.

Sexual Deviants and pedophiles are not allowed

If you are here for that purpose, for your own good and everyone else’s, we suggest you leave.

Wow – that’s a welcome alright <sarcastic font>. So I’ll say right up front that that is one aspect of Ghana that I don’t love. Other than that (big problem), all the people we’ve met so far have been lovely.

While we were waiting in the baggage claim, five people including myself were paged to be told that our luggage had not come on the plane with us. There are a couple of theories as to why – one person in my group thinks that the plane in New York was already so full of luggage (all the expats and Ghanain nationals returning home) that they just couldn’t or didn’t even try to put ours on. We don’t think it was misdirected—it just never made it on the plane.  They told us at the missing luggage counter it would be arriving at 8 PM. We asked, certain in our naiveté, “And you’ll deliver it to our hotel, right?” “Oh, no,” she replied, with such a wonderful tone that I wish I could describe—it implied sorrow and pity and humor that we could POSSIBLY think such a thing. The tone cut off all further inquiry. That was that. Someone would have to return to the airport to retrieve the luggage. Fortunately it wasn’t me.

Then there was a lunch, and a drink, and some fried plantains. A short put-my-feet-up that turned into a nap. Another trip to the breezy, open-air veranda style hotel restaurant and some wifi with my cohort, and a live band, and a bean stew with yes, more fried plantains. And that was Day 1.

Monday – First full day

Monday was a full and interesting day! We started off (after a breakfast buffet, very nice, coffee, toast and jam, cornflakes, thin parsley and onion omelets, yes please)  with a presentation by one of our local hosts, Akem, on Ghanaian history and culture. Akem  is a fount of knowledge and understanding of his country, and having lived in the U.S. for 22 years, is adept at getting it across to us. I couldn’t convey a quarter of what he presented, except that my simplistic take-away was:  Wow, if the rest of Africa is anywhere near as complicated as what we’ve just learned about Ghana, little wonder that the West has messed it up as much as it has. We also met our other local host and guide for our time in Accra, a lovely Ghanaian woman named Ophelia. Ophelia was so impressive in her calm assurance, friendly and open manner, and presented a fascinating mix of modern Ghanaian culture while also maintaining, reviving, and remembering traditional roots. She seemed a real model of the modern African woman to my untrained eye. One thing that struck many of us was the clear sense of identity and history that the Ghanaians we met seemed to have. Of course we’re part of an educational program, so perhaps our hosts are not the norm, but they expressed a clear sense of African history before colonialism, what the colonial experience had brought and/or done to Africa, and the struggle to reclaim and maintain their traditions while balancing modernity. So many lessons for the U.S. here!

We went on to have a fantastic lunch at an Accra restaurant, Buka – like many places, an open-air though covered establishment. Warm and breezy. I got lucky and got to sit near Akem and Ophelia. Although I don’t have the most adventurous palate in the world, I do want to try as many Ghanaian foods as I can. Today I had the grilled whole tilapia, smothered in onions and tomatoes, absolutely amazing. Side of kelewele – small bits of plantain lightly spiced and fried. Came with three dipping condiments, from a little bit spicy to Whoa! Side of groundnut soup – basically a peanut soup with lots of (I think) palm oil. Very different and tasty.  Akem and Ophelia ate their meal the traditional way, with their (right) hands. I tried to do so as well. At one point though I got too interested in the conversation and totally missed a fish bone – it felt pretty big lodged in my throat. It was touch and go for a minute, with people saying “Drink, drink, swallow!” or “Pound her on the back!” and “Can you breathe?” It finally went down, though I can still kind of feel it. Don’t do that, is my advice.

Here’s Ophelia with my colleague Amber. And then there’s the yummy if dangerous tilapia.

IMG_0061          IMG_00801

After that (yes, there’s more!) we went to the U.S. Embassy, where we met up with the Ghanaian teachers who will be hosting us from this Thursday to the next. We had great exchange with them, sharing our experiences with each other, and I think we all realized – We are so much more similar than we are different. Sure, our settings are different, but when it comes down to it, teachers are teachers and that means the same problems: Overworked, underpaid, not enough time, and not enough resources. One real difference, though, is that because the Ghanaian economy is more developing, many people remain in teaching because they really have no other options. I think that’s different for the U.S. – I think we do have more options but people stay in teaching either because they are really dedicated and/or because they are decently compensated.

Then we returned to the hotel, took a walk around the block, but I wasn’t kidding when I said it’s not really a walkable area – no sidewalks, open sewers, random holes you don’t want to fall into, traffic speeding by. This is the block behind the hotel, not the main thoroughfare that wasn’t so great to walk on. This part was kind of cool.

walk around block

We didn’t have much time anyway, as we had a meeting at 6:30, then dinner, and then a performance. The Saakuma Dance Troupe “is dedicated to introducing audiences to traditional and contemporary African dance and music” and pretty much blew us away with their energy and passion and joy. They danced and sang and drummed for almost two hours! I don’t know how they did it. I took a ton of pictures and video clips, but Youtube is still trying to upload just one little clip, so I don’t know when I can share them all. But here is a picture of the dance troupe — would put some more but the Wi-Fi here is very slow tonight. One thing I have definitely learned — I need to get a better camera!


Ciao for now

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A Great Send-Off to Ghana, Part I

Wow, the week leading up to leaving for the Ghana trip was a whirlwind. (Actually, the month before that wasn’t that calm or uneventful either….) Seriously, the number of items and tasks that were on the t0-do list was kind of mind-boggling. But in a  way, it was also a really great send-off and also incredibly fitting.  I have to explain the background in order to explain just how cool this past Friday was. This is The Coolness of Friday, Part I.

For this program, we took an eight week long course last fall in globalizing our teaching and learning. We looked at all these reports that discussed the need for a global education and global perspective, and what constitutes “global competencies.” For our final work product, we had to develop a unit plan around something we already teach, but adapt it for our new efforts in addressing global competencies. I decided to add on to my normal unit I teach around the Orwell novel Animal Farm, one theme of which is the way in which power corrupts and how a government can exercise control over its subjects. I added in segments on “the power of persuasion”; to bring home to my students the ways in which persuasion can be used by grassroots movements and individuals to usurp power from the institutions in their lives, we began to look at social movements across history and how they created change. I wanted my students to see that power is not just something that “other people” have or that governments or institutions have, but rather something that they can create, control, and influence. I wanted them to see that they, too, could be agents of change in the world. We started by learning Aristotle’s rhetorical techniques of ethos, logos, and pathos, and looked at a couple of examples of how a speaker or author can use them to persuade their audience to believe them. That was what we were doing for my biannual formal observation, and it went well. I told them that eventually, I hoped they would use the techniques of ethos, logos, and pathos to advocate for  change around an issue that concerned them The next day one of my students came up to me and said, “Ms. Callaghan, I wrote a speech using ethos, logos, and pathos about bullying – can I read it to the class?”  !!!!!! If you are a teacher, you understand what a dream come true this is! All the more amazing because this student, Molly, only arrived to the U.S. from Haiti last summer.

She stood up in front of the class, and gave her speech, which was a plea to her peers to stop bullying and to not be a bystander in the face of evil. It was moving and heartfelt and she perfectly used techniques of ethos and logos, and especially, pathos. (I know the emotional appeal worked because I had tears in my eyes.) When she finished, I knew more people had to see what I had just seen. So I emailed an assistant principle and the next day — Friday, March 14, the day before my trip – Molly and I were invited to speak at the Digital Harbor Advisory Board, a group of community and business leaders that meet each month with school administrators. I described my upcoming trip and the TGC program, and Molly delivered her speech. She was awesome. They were beyond impressed, with one board member saying, “You have to publish this, this needs to go nationally!” “Globally!” chimed in another member.

I couldn’t have been more proud. And thrilled to goosebumps to see that this great thing that Molly had done, was in a way a direct result of the modified unit I did for TGC. For it to come together like that, the day before I was leaving, was such a validation of this work. And it was truly a great send-off for the Ghana trip. That was all before 9:30 AM. Other great things happened that afternoon. That’ll be in Part 2. Cheers, all!

 Molly and me anti bullying speech


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Post-TGC Symposium Thoughts

So the 2013-2014 TGC cohort spent an amazing couple of days in DC to learn more in preparation of our trip. It was difficult to be away from school for a couple of days, especially since soon I’ll be away for two weeks. But I’m so glad I was there! It was very exciting to meet people in person that I’d only emailed or Facebooked with. And there was so much great and useful information shared with us, about our countries of travel, traveling in general, global education….Very exciting–and exhausting. By Saturday morning, my brain was full and tired.

In addition to the many great ideas I heard, I did have at least one very clear and coherent thought: It occurred to me that every single teacher (and administrator) that I was able to meet and talk with was one of the most amazing teachers that I’ve met. As in, you know how in your day-to-day work life, there are those special colleagues that you really treasure, because not only are they so smart and good at what they do, but they go above and beyond, and have fantastic ideas and are doing incredible things–and then, in addition to all of that, they are also just really cool people? ALL the TGC teachers I met are like that!

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Teachers for Global Classrooms ~ Traveling to Ghana

This school year, something really exciting happened for me: I applied to and was accepted into the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) program. This program is run by IREX, the International Research & Exchanges Board, and funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The TGC program is a year-long professional development opportunity for secondary school teachers to learn about “global education” and to bring it into our teaching and learning. In short, to “globalize teaching and learning.”

The participants in the TGC program are from all over the United States–from Charlottesville, Va, to Spokane, Washington, to Iowa City, Iowa, just to name a few. And, of course, from Baltimore, Maryland! 🙂

We took a very intense online course where we learned a ton. We just came back from a two day symposium where we had the chance to meet the other program participants in person and learned even more. Soon comes perhaps the most exciting part of our learning–the in-country field experience. For this portion, I’ll be traveling to GHANA, on the west coast of Africa, for two weeks in March. This is a dream come true for me! There are ten of us in the Ghana group. We’ll spend about four days in the capital city of Accra. Then my partner–a wonderful teacher from Iowa City–and I will go to the very nearby city of Tema, where will be be hosted by a Ghanaian teacher who will help us learn about her school and the educational system in Ghana. I will be writing and posting about my experience here for my students and colleagues. I hope to master Skype finally so that I can Skype with my classes while I’m gone. 

So, that is the purpose of this blog–to enhance and share my adventures in globalizing teaching and learning and traveling to Ghana! I hope you will come back and visit. 

If you are interested in the TGC program, you can learn more at the link below. They are currently accepting applications for next year’s program, so apply now! The application window closes March 11. 



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