News : Heather's trip
Heather King, a primary school speech and language therapist from London, visited the SEP Happy School for three weeks in February. Here's how she got on...
Apparently the first question the teachers asked about me was 'Is she friendly?' and as I spent more time at The Happy School, Saltpond and along the Ghanaian coast, it was clear being sociable was important. I shook hands with strangers and new friends more times than I can count, often standing holding hands for some time afterwards. This friendly, slow pace of life was something I knew I could get used to.
Soon, I settled in to there being no rush; buses taking three hours to leave and restaurants closing for the staff to have lunch. So, I expected a similar pace towards school work at the Happy School. But every morning, there the children were, lined up, register going, songs being sung, uniform being inspected - all were ready to start the day. And the school's timetable is like clockwork: the staff's consistent dedication means it all happens naturally. Everybody seems to know what is happening, the children are in charge of ringing the bell and need no reminding of what to do when they hear it. And with that sense of autonomy, I felt their pride and dedication. One lunch time, I walked past the year 5 classroom and saw children inside. They were standing on tables and when I looked up at what they were doing, I realised they were cleaning the shutters. Without punishment or instruction from their teacher, happily chatting and helping out.
The children were engaged in every lesson: happy and respectful. Their reading fluency and spelling in English is excellent, thanks to the phonics focus the team have worked hard on over the years. They learn by call and response and they learn quickly what they are taught. I wanted to help with their creativity of thought, and so helped to set up lessons telling stories, asking questions and an art project called 'what makes me happy' conceived by Rachel and the UK team. The staff were open and flexible to new ideas and I could see an amazing amount of possibility to develop this further.
As I said my goodbyes, I was happy to be able to say I would definitely be back and am already planning a trip later this year. My cousin, who is a Secondary school English teacher, and I are hoping to run two weeks of training in August. We will aim to develop the teachers' confidence in speaking and listening in English, teach some starter activities to strengthen the children's awareness on how they learn and look at how the use of poetry might be used at Saltpond. I am really looking forward to a productive and joyful few weeks back in Ghana.