News : Jess visits Saltpond

18/11/2016

Primary school teacher, Jess Calnan, describes her experience visiting the SEP Happy School in Ghana. 

Walking into the Saltpond Education Project Happy School, I was greeted with the sounds of the KG classes singing 'If you're happy and you know it' and the excited babble from other classes as the children settled down to their lessons. This coupled with the bright green and yellow walls showed me from the start it is a happy school filled with happy children. It was great to see songs at the start of many lessons, the use of active learning including using their outside space as well as engaging children by pretending to get the answer wrong which the children loved just as much as they do in England. When a child answered a question correctly the whole class would clap a rhythm to congratulate them, which was so catchy it's still stuck in my head. The teachers also used brain breaks to keep the children engaged and focused, following moves or singing a song. They also use talk partners, teamwork and I saw a girls-versus-boys quiz which got very competitive. 

Across the school it is obvious to see the great training the SEP team have already given the teachers. When volunteering at the SEP happy school the aim is to make an impact on the teaching and for me, as a primary teacher, it was to also gain international experience. One of my key focus areas was medium term planning for English. I set out medium term plans for the year using the Ghanaian syllabus and ran a training session for teachers on how to add in their own lesson ideas at the start of each term, focusing on active learning and using their lesson observation criteria. 

Earlier in the year the teachers had done some training on how to use maths resources and it was great to see how well the resources were used, including bead strings for subtracting in stage 1 and number squares for addition in stage 4. Two new teachers had joined since then so I showed them the resources and ran through how and what to use them for. When I was sat in the office the next day, it was so nice to see one of those teachers already coming to get the number squares for his lesson based on subtracting 10. 

When I was shown around the school Mike showed me the ICT and library room - one end ICT and the other end to be the library. But they still needed to get some shelves to make the library. So I thought this would be a great way to use the donation my mum and grandma made before my trip. We got shelves made, went and bought some bright animal lino for the floor and some material to hang and make it a more cosy book corner with some chairs. When each class came to see and experience the library for the first time they all seemed so excited and interested. They had the chance to take a look at the books and have stories read to them. The KG children loved the very hungry caterpillar. Now it can be used during English lessons and hopefully at lunchtimes, especially when the bookshelves are full. I was also lucky enough to be part of the interview process for a new teacher and created pictures for the Christmas cards.
During my trip I stayed in the volunteer house just around the corner from the school and right next to the beach. Mike, the project manager, was so helpful, showing me how to cook Ghanaian food; my favourites were definitely fried yam and red red (beans and fried plantain).  He also took me on a trip to Cape Coast to see the castle. Saltpond is such a friendly place - people say hello wherever you go and children want to know your name. I would recommend it to anyone. Just be prepared for a very relaxing pace of life!

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