The First Week

Today I finished my first week of teaching, which came with many ups and downs. Having little to no experience I was very nervous for my first day and I got up at 7 to put my final touches on the lesson. I had no idea what to expect. My transportation to Heritage involved the usual taxi ride in the morning, which are not hard to find since more than half the cars driving on the road fall into “taxi” category. Arriving around 9 I still had some time to spare and found myself distracted by a competitive game of draft between two other teachers. As it neared 930 I got myself situated to start class. However, when I walked into the room no students were there and once again I fell into the trap of being 20 minutes ahead of Ghana time, as punctuality is not an essential part of the culture. When the classroom started filling up halfway I finally decided to start class having a lot of material to cover. It went flawless. The students were engaged, we finished the entire lesson, and I was able to answer all their questions. On top of that, the new method of teaching that Kwesi and I are trying to impose was enthusiastically accepted . The typical Ghanaian classroom consists of the teacher speaking and the students listening, while the new Heritage approach involves the students and makes them think critically. Days two and three followed with just as much success.

Then came day four… Class started as usual, greeting the students and going over the daily procedures. After the daily introduction it was time to start class and tackle the problems of the day. The way I designed our lesson plan was that the students would get seven minutes to look at the problem, after which we would quickly go over it and move on to the next question. That was the plan. However, instead of quickly moving on to the next question I found myself stuck in a continuous cycle of repetitive questions answered with the same responses. Fifteen minutes of this back-and-forth spectacle passed and matters only got worse. It seemed like the students enjoyed the frustrating halt created in the room and would only tell me that they didn’t get it and the explanation just didn’t make sense. It was here that I discovered my lack of experience as a teacher having no idea how to change the atmosphere in the room. And It was here that I discovered what separates good teachers from the bad. It isn’t the first three days that fly by impeccably. Instead, it is the fourth day, where you have to grind out numerous new methods until you hit the one that makes sense. I couldn’t.

I realized that day that I will encounter many obstacles as a teacher and my inexperience will lead to some difficult days. However, I can’t get frustrated. Just as Mr. Koenig said, “take it or leave it. You will run into many difficult teaching moments. Enjoy them, use them to become better the next day, and realize that even the teachers who have come from the US to teach have had their struggles at the beginning.” Now I haven’t found a way to enjoy the struggles I endured that day but I definitely learned from them.

Greetings from Ghana.


Heritage Academy College Fund:

5 thoughts on “The First Week

  1. Esther Everts

    Dear Olivier, how wonderful it is to read about your first teaching experience this week. As you say this is also a great leaning experience for you. I am so proud of you and could only wish oma would still be here to read about your experience. She too would have been very proud of what you are doing in Ghana and would have enjoyed your great story telling as well !

    Liefs, mama


  2. Another great story, Olivier. What you experience with teaching is similar with managing teams and I think with all situations where you interact with people. Everyone is different and every situation is different. It requires adapting your style, your message, your behavior, until you find one that works. And accepting that even then you fail often. Live and learn!


  3. Karen

    Message from Julian:
    Hi Olivier, ik mis jou heel veel. Ik wish dat ik je kon zien want ik vind jou zo leuk. Kan ik een keer komen logeren? Hoe gaat het in Afrika. Ik hou van jou! Heel veel plezier in Afrika.


  4. Roel

    Way to go olivier. I guess that you went to ghana to experience new challenges. I believe you found it. Just remember that rome was not built in one day. We are very curious how you overcome these issues. Please keep on writing down your experiences. It is super-interesting .


  5. Becky (Alsup) & Jeff Kingery

    Olivier, I have supervised College instructors for over six years now since my return to College employment. Everyone of the full-time teachers says they wish they could have their first year students back for a “do over”. One of them even laughs that he was so nervous he covered the first semester of material in the first day! All of them also agree that they learn more each day than their students. I hope you find this as well. Best of luck to you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s