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Students gain new perspectives as teachers in Ghana

Feb. 27, 2006
By Jennifer Cochran

Kim Czuchnicki jumps at the chance to talk about her experience living and teaching in Ghana this fall. Now, back in Ohio, she looks through her pictures every day to keep close the smiling faces of her Ghanaian students, host family and friends.

Through the Teach in Ghana program, Czuchnicki, a junior middle childhood education major, and Haley McDonough, a junior middle childhood education major, spent fall quarter in Cape Coast, Ghana. They were two of the five Ohio University students who had unforgettable experiences living and teaching in Africa.

For three months, Czuchnicki taught English to middle school students in a public school. It was her first time in front of the classroom and she faced the challenge of teaching large classes?52 students?with few books and other resources. Thankfully, the students were affectionate and respectful. She said she appreciated gaining practical hands-on experience in classroom management and relating to students.

Czuchnicki faced the challenges of working in an educational system different from her own. She found that group work, so popular in U.S. classrooms, did not work well in the Ghanaian classroom. Her students were accustomed to learning more through the transmission method, or the traditional lecture pedagogy.

Additionally, Czuchnicki had to adjust to life in another culture. Living with a host family made that easy. Her host family went out of their way to take care of her and helped her understand Ghanaian culture. Now, she works to get back into the swing of things in Athens. She misses being a teacher. "It's hard being a student again," she said.

Living in Africa changed Czuchnicki in subtle ways. "I know my thinking has changed," she says. "In Ghana I became more relaxed--I'm less self-conscious." Czuchnicki says she is now more laid-back and is less of a clock-watcher.

Czuchnicki would like to see the Teach in Ghana program grow. "I would encourage anyone to go to Ghana," she said. "If there's any desire to teach, just go for it."

"You'll be able to think on your feet. You really have to be inventive," she said. "I'm more comfortable. I'm able to do more with the resources I have. There's so much that we have that we just don't utilize. Just being there?just the social interactions were invaluable."

Haley McDonough also had wonderful experiences in Ghana. She taught English and math at a private Catholic boarding school. "I attached to my school right from the start," she said.

McDonough taught large classes of about 50 students. She said that she initially found it challenging to take confidently charge in a classroom because she is a junior with no classroom teaching experience before Ghana.

In addition to learning to be a teacher, McDonough had the opportunity to grow as a person in Ghana. "I learned how to be an individual," she said. "You are there alone so you have to be an individual and make your own decisions."

She became interested in the Teach in Ghana program after hearing Francis Godwyll, a Ghanaian who teaches in the College of Education, talk about his country and culture. In the future, McDonough hopes to inspire her own American students and plans to create lessons about African culture.

The Teach in Ghana Program was developed jointly by the Ohio University's Office of Education Abroad and the Institute for the African Child. Every fall quarter more students take part in the program. Ohio University students interested in participating in the program must submit an application which includes an essay, recommendations, review of student records and an interview. Students and their parents participate in a pre-departure orientation where they talk with students, faculty and staff who have lived in Ghana.

Jennifer Cochran is the Assistant Director for Communication and Graduate Programming

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Published: Feb 22, 2006 12:00:00 AM
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