Me Da Mo Ase (Thank You Everyone)

This month I have done a few things I have never done before. I have kept my small notebook with my paper mate flair to organize myself. As a welcome wagon for five new slicers, I have been able to record the dates of my comments in order to keep me on course.

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My word document has also been ready to capture ideas, impressions and potential trials. I must say this has been helpful for me as I have managed to use my organization to benefit myself and my learners. Here are two examples:

Learning from https://mschiubookawrites.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/got-notebook-pages/ ideas, my students created the sketch notes of their weekend in their Writers’ Notebook. The second example, guided by litcoachlady’s day 22’s slice, my students wrote docu- poems after watching a BBC Climate change video.

There are many more ideas I have read about that are ingrained in my being and my call for work. That is why I am indebted to the Two Writing Teachers SOLSC, for this treasure trove I have become a part of. I believe this is one of the most enlightening activities I have taken part in.

My new community, the many friends whose visits I look forward to. The feeling I get when I read the comments from them is extra-ordinary, they help me be the writer that I am growing to be. The comments shed light on some of what I thought about and sometimes take me places I can now go. I thank you all. I am vowing to join the Tuesday SOLSC, as the more I write and read others’ stories the better teacher and writer I am becoming.

Thank you to my colleagues who joined us as the word spread at school, Kay, Darren, Sylvia, Tenkoramah, Mary and many potential teachers who have vowed to join next year. This has been PHENOMENAL!

In Ghana we say medaase or meda mo ase (meaning thank you, everyone).

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Celebrating the Third Teacher

After their student led conference, students in my class had a choice of activities to complete with their parents or present to them. As a non-participant of this event I was able to observe at the side. It was quite an assessment for me. I made myself busy marking Math papers, planning the next steps, but I could not resist the urge to look up. My inquisitive self made be listen into the conversations and interactions.

Soon enough, a student came close to me was telling parents about their, ‘third teacher.’ I learned about this  years ago when I visited Reggio Emilia. The importance of the third teacher in my book cannot be down played.

At a fifth grade assembly this week, students shared the learning that goes on in their class. The performance or exposé clearly put together by the students celebrated a ‘Me space’ or ‘Me wall’ for each of the students the exists in their class.  Our third teacher is our classroom environment and the walls, from which we learn or with which we have developed our learning. Some of them from our mini-lessons, displays of our learning, books, models or anything the students and teachers deem applicable to the teaching and learning taking place. That is my understanding of the third teacher.

That is why I keep mine current and make sure I de-clutter as we gain new learning, replacing the old with reminders of the exact topics and guides needed for students to be successful. A couple of students cleverly incorporated sharing the information displayed with that of their portfolio pieces. As an observer I was proud of my students’ explanation of their learning, to their parents, from a variety of media.

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The Workmen

I turned around and saw the most beautiful image. A sight that spelt commitment, reliance and hard work. I observed the gentlemen clad in their blue overalls at a distance, always present, available to keep our school compound clean and presentable. They appear after the rains, when meals are over, after the lawn is freshly mowed and also on windy days when the leaves are scattered all over campus.

Glad they have been noticed again, this time handed sun hats on these extremely sunny days. I spotted this image from a distance, one I have never seen before and in gratitude I asked my colleague to take a couple of photographs, for me to celebrate them. This image, is a reminder that we are all important and so are our roles, relevant to make our community and our environment tick.

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Before the Maker Faire

Wednesday – 27th March

Have you ever organized an event at school which got all the community excited for over three months? A few teachers at our school did just that.

Weeks before our Maker Faire I received emails from parents asking about the schedule, whether they should only come and watch their children, whether they have to be present when their child is setting up in the morning and so many other questions.

Days before the event I received emails from students sharing how nervous they are and asking if I would go and register with them in the morning.

What about the quick writes two Mondays ago, which let the secret out?  Students shared their time visiting each other over the weekend and after school to plan, experiments and build. Bringing unlikely partnerships together. Some taking advantage of spending playdates in each others’ homes. The friendships developed by a shared idea are commendable.

One such partnership made an extreme change in the behavior of some members of the team. This happened because the team would not think it right if some members carried on as before. Positive changes, positive relationships and we are yet to see the innovation that has been developed by the sheer positivity.

This event reinforces the power of choice, innovation and play. Most students see this as an extension of play as they are given the opportunity to choose what to make. It makes me think of Genius Hour when it is well conducted exposing the benefits it brings to the class, students and teacher. Getting to know students’ interests, partnerships and possibly using that to enhance collaboration in future classroom activities.

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The frenzy at school began early in the morning of Thursday 28th March.

This is what R shared with me.

“What time did I even call you?” R had sent me a message about how nervous she is.

“I did not even go down for dinner, because I was not hungry.” – R

A talking to L from the other class.

“Did you read my message?”- A

“I replied but I was half asleep.” -L

 Another student (S) from a different class working with my student (G).

“Ms. Juliette I am feeling nervous and excited.”- S

G appears.

They hug each other.

“My dad is will bring all the stuff at 11.” – G

S- looked worried.

B in my class showing off his programmed robot.

“Ms. J, he made a robot!”  Another student reported.

“How does it move?” I asked.

“Watch.” B said proudly.

“Oh, here we go, here we go.” B singing.

His brother from a lower grade arrives sporting his Make Faire T-Shirt.

“Watch this- freeeeeeeeeee.”

A ball shoots out of the robot’s hand.

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Chatting During Lunch

I often have lunch by myself, beside the third grade students. During lunchtime yesterday, I was sitting staring into space, with lots of voices behind me, when a young third grader came to sit on the bench perpendicular to mine. She seemed worried with her palm cupped around her chin, I knew there was something wrong.

I waited a little while and decided to invite her to join me. I did not even finish the sentence when she hopped onto the bench opposite mine.

“Hi, why are you sitting by yourself?” I asked.

“My best friend S said she is not my friend anymore,” she explained, pursing her lips, slightly.

I looked sympathetic, wanting to console her and ask what happened, but she stepped in and said,

“It’s okay, I can deal with it,” with matching gestures.

I found it so funny but had to put on a caring face. She seemed like a little adult, still with the forlorn face, I decided to change the topic. I asked if she had any siblings, that got us talking for a while. She had perked up and chatted a lot about her sister, describing her perfectly whilst expecting me to know exactly what she looked like. The interesting part was when she described what her sister was wearing,

“…and she has turquoise sneakers on.”

I thought that was interesting, and felt sad telling her I did not know who her sister is. Insisting I should know her she continued,

“and she wears her hair like this.”

Unravelling the pom-pom like bun that had been planted on her head and brushing her hair down with her palm, then holding on till she was able to tie it into a bun that resembles her sister’s. It was not over till she scraped the front part of her hair flat, part of it covering her forehead and said,

“Now I look exactly like her.”

“Can you remember her?”

I felt really sorry I had to say no, so I said,

“Maybe one day we can go and find her, together.”

Soon after that clear description, S run and shouted to my new friend,

“Should we go and play now?’

Just as my friend had jumped onto the bench when I invited her to sit with me earlier, she hopped off shouting,

“Bye.”

I could see the joy in their movement as they both held onto their sandwich boxes leaping forward to put them down in order to savor the rest of the playtime before going back to class. A renewed friendship had just been born.

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Grandma’s Chips

Early this year, before my oldest son left for university , we went to visit Grandma A. I felt it necessary because I heard she was immobile so I knew we had to go and see her. I wanted her to meet my children, her grand children. She is my father in law’s brother’s wife. I am not sure how I should call her, but she is the grandmother of my children. Her late husband, my father in law’s brother was the person my son K was named after. In these parts extended family can become close family. It really takes a village to bring up our children.

When you are named after a family member, a bond is born and you end up revering the person. Now Grandpa’s children see my son K as their father. Not necessarily a replacement since he is young, but they give him the respect they would give to their father. That is the power of names, in Ghana.

At school a group of us have a book club. We are reading Sara Ahmed’s book, Being The Change, as part of our discussion of Chapter one, we shared the ‘stories of our names’. It was a truly powerful discussion that did not only reveal our names but the history, family, culture, friendship, locations, gender, language and sentimental stories. These are a few of the areas and themes shared from the stories of our names. K’s name is a significant part of his being, Grandma tells us he is just like her late husband who was a senior policeman and a true gentleman. At age 18, K is a true gentleman, all six feet of him, a responsible policeman and a tender hearted human being. Grandma calls him, my husband.

After the visit in the new year, I promised to visit Grandma every month and have kept my word. This month she beat me to it. From her bed in a tiny room of her marital cottage, she called me. That was a surprise phone call.

Juliette, she croaked, “I have made you some of the plantain chips K likes please send for them anytime.”

“Grandma, I’ll send for them on Saturday when I come to your area.” I promised and totally forgot.

Early Monday morning, Grandma called again,

“Juliette are you at school?” “Send for the plantain chips, I have kept some for you.”

I felt embarrassed and hid behind the phone call. I thanked her and quickly sent for the parcel.

Grandma, has the recipe for the most delicious crispy, lightly fried, thinly sliced ,salted, plantain chips. She has taught her house help to make it. From the bed she controls the affairs of her kitchen. She gives us enough to feed a village, I share it with my friends.

This is a slice of gratitude and a reminder that you are never too old to care. She feels obliged to take care of us and does not forget us at her age, she is almost ninety and is still caring for all of us.

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Discovering A Bird Colony

Slicing has made me look at my world differently. I am noticing beauty around me. I must say beauty in my eyes or beauty when I do not have the full story.

On my leaving D, after a visit to his boarding school yesterday, I noticed trees in the distance that looked amazing. The trees were decorated with white birds.

I shared a slice with a photograph on day 17 and one of the comments was a slicer wondering the type of birds that live in the trees of the photo. I guess this comment has been at the back of my mind and resurfaced when I saw this phenomenal view.

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We drove past it quickly and I thought to myself, I will take a photograph of this extraordinary view the next time I visit. Then I remembered I could ask D to take a photograph of the view and send it to me. So I did.

Inspired by mschiubookawrites’s slice from day 24, when she shared how PaperbackEd’s slice had inspired her, I will attach my mobile communication with D.

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D found the request hilarious. I guess the students regard the birds a nuisance.

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So I did. I had to clarify what I had been told. So I carried out some research.

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I was wanderings why the egrets congregated in that particular area.

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D told me later that there is a swamp very close to the trees, the students walk that way for classes every morning, I guess that answers my question.

What I found beautiful from a distance is detested by others, people living close by.

 

That Voice

Yesterday I bumped into a number of people, passing by a gentleman, he recognized me immediately, I didn’t, but that voice.

He just said, “Hello Juliette.”

As soon as I looked his way, I knew exactly who he was, although I did not remember his name.

It had been over forty years, our elementary school days since I set eyes on this young man, not so young man now, with a bit of weight on. His face looked the same, youthful, I guess. Since our elementary school days, we had never met. I was walking past him but he did well to recognize the not so young lady.

Maybe we have aged gracefully, holding onto our youthful features that makes us recognizable. Or is it the voice? The sound that betrays us? I have grown to realize that voices are unique and it does not matter how old we are,  more often than not, our voices are recognizable.

It was great reuniting , although briefly, with an old friend and I must say I was glad he called me, especially by name . I felt guilty I could not mention his. As it was a quick encounter I moved on swiftly to ponder. If I had more time I would have asked him kindly to remind me of his first name as that would have definitely triggered off his surname.

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Colors Represented

When I assisted a weekly Art therapy class , many years ago, I learned about the connection between colors and emotions. On numerous occasions, the students chosen to attend the sessions chose to use dark colors to express negativity, pain or worry. They got to share the meaning of their particular art work with the group at the end of each session.

In Ghana however, black is the color worn for mourning. For most funerals black is the color worn to mourn dear ones. Our traditional funeral attire for women is a black top and long skirt with a silk scarf to match. I guess here, it symbolizes pain, loss, sadness, emptiness and dread. Men can wear a wrapped black cloth or a long black shirt (boubou) with matching trousers. Some mourners settle on red and black and ask all sympathizers to wear those colors. I guess the red is easier to connect with death as it may represent blood, blood shed or pain, whilst black and white is worn mostly on the Sunday after the funeral to thank God and celebrate the life of the deceased.

The dark colors were rife during the Art therapy class. From the chat with students, you knew why their work had those particular colors and images, that day. What they represented to them and why they had selected those rather than the other options available.

This topic came to mind whilst selecting my attire for my uncle’s funeral today: I will be clad in all black, hair covered and all. In my Akan culture, this is taken very seriously, funerals are big events, seeing off dear ones has become one of the most significant social events, especially in the rural areas. Sometimes we question how funerals gained so much attention within the cultural framework but we still give this space our due, especially if you are Akan.

So for my elderly uncle F, I am off to pay my last respects, early this morning, clad in all black. In the afternoon however, I will attend the social gathering with a red cover cloth on top of the long black skirt, clearly differentiating close family members from friends.

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Dora’s Search

The choir piped merrily around the organist. It all looked wrong in the small charismatic church, meeting in a room that could hardly hold fifty adults. In this room, they were packed like sardines, full, some stood and others sat to shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Amen” throughout the praises.

Dora appeared late, lost, looking for a different room within the building where there was supposed to be a seminar for nurses. The mix of adults looked professional, well dressed and as the organ and organist were covered by the crowd (congregation), she thought this could be it. There was standing room only, so she squeezed and a got a little space by the wall. Behind her were two men also seeking some standing room. Dora was confused as on the stage was one man clad in a grey suit with a hidden priest’s collar featured under his chin. She felt stuck as there was no moving space.

“I have come to the wrong place again,” she thought.

Before her arrival, she had gone to two rooms along the hall, where there was nobody. She got on this strange lift that had three or four doors, this was rare, she had never seen anything like that. What was happening to her? Where could she be?  What about the seminar?

Unfortunately, Dora was not given a room number so she had to search this four story building, which seemed practically empty, with no one walking along the corridors. What drew her to this room must have been the sound of people congregated for one reason or another but not the reason she was there for.

Now Dora had to get out. How? The door was blocked with worshippers, enthusiastic worshippers, who responded heartily to the priest. That is when the priest called for Salome to share her testimony. Salome climbed the stage slowly, head bowed, she spoke with a little lisp, the microphone did not help, the lisping sound turned into loud tweets. At some point during her delivery, Salome stopped, wept a little and broke out in song, a nice melody spat out. That is when the organist flipped.

“We are the singers in the room.”

“How can she stand up there and sing.”

The choristers joined in.

“How can we allow this at this church.”

There were many voices blurting out at the same time. The whole ‘church’ was in chaos. People moved about, the priest could not control the anger of the small group that seeped into the congregation. That was the time for Dora to flee. She squeezed, flattened her body against the wall moved sideways till she got to the door, knelt a little and writhed through the two large men at the door.

“Thank God,” Dora breathed, when she got out.

“What a mess!”

“Are they not supposed to be orderly?”

Dora gave up and thought, she had wasted the morning, searching. Next time she would have to get better directions.

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