The most often asked question when I shared how I would spend three weeks in the summer of 2018 was…Why? I asked myself that question many times. Why would I leave the comfort zone of my home, family, and friends to travel to the other side of the world? Why would I embark on this journey alone and at the age of 47? Prior to this trip to Ghana, I was content in my safety nest. In fact, I had only recently felt comfortable flying. Up until two years ago, I had a blinding fear of flying. I thought if the Good Lord intended for me to fly, He would have equipped me with wings. However, life threw a curveball my way. My husband was transferred to work in San Antonio, Texas for three years and I stayed home where our home and family were. In order for me to see him, I would either have to drive twelve hours or fly. I opted to face my fear of flying so I could spend time throughout the school year with my husband. Now, I fly to see him many times in a year. But there was something that kept stirring in my soul. I was becoming jaded as an educator. Frustrated with the constant barrage of assessments and always being under a microscope, I began to wonder if it was time to leave the profession. I became close with a friend who had gone to Uganda with LRTT and was intrigued by the challenge. I scoured the LRTT website, watched every video of the different fellowships, and narrowed my choices down to Ghana or Uganda. I continued to research each country looking to learn more about the culture, food, educational needs of the children, and of course the weather. The choice was obvious…Ghana.
Why Ghana? The need for early literacy instruction and the focus on professional development for teachers in the early primary years. That’s my niche’! I’ve been a primary teacher for fifteen years and I love anything and everything about teaching literacy. After a great deal of research and talking to my husband and children, we all agreed this was an opportunity of a lifetime. So, on August 27, 2018, I put my deposit down and began making plans for this trip.
As time grew closer, especially the final week before departure, the nerves began to kick in. I was full of self-doubt. What worried me the most was the fact that I was confident that I would be the OLDEST fellow in Ghana. I had developed relationships with some of the fellows prior to leaving, but the age divide worried me. After the first day in Accra, I quickly realized that worry was unfounded as I had already grown close to many of the fellows in less than 24 hours. We were in this together and already felt the presence of closeness and family.
Sharon with the colleagues she met and mentored during her Fellowship
Throughout the entire fellowship, I tested my boundaries as a professional in ways I never thought I would. We synergized together to discern the needs of the teachers and plan conference sessions around those needs. One of my favourite conference sessions was providing resources and strategies on phonics instruction. That was in my wheelhouse! The best part of the conferences was using our personal strengths in various sessions and leaning on the other fellows for support and guidance.
After the conferences, our team gathered for photos
At the end of this journey, I learned so much about myself as a person and an educator. I realized that despite the lack of resources for teachers and students in Ghana, we ALL share a common denominator. Regardless of where we teach in this world, we have a bond that holds us together…teaching and our love for students. The Ghanaian teachers are amazing. They are able to teach children to read and write in two languages, mathematics, natural sciences, creative arts and religion/citizenship, with very little training or resources. Like teachers from other parts of the world, they are creative with the resources that are available to them. I witnessed children using bottle caps for math manipulatives and straws for base ten blocks. The children are learning how to read and write with only textbooks. The literature that is available for use by students in the United States is almost non-existent. But yet, the teachers persevere and hunger for more training. Why? They love children.
Now I’m home, I find myself thinking of the fellows that I’ve met and I miss them dearly. I have been regaling my students with stories from Ghana. I am constantly looking through all of the pictures I’ve taken and missing the Ghanaian teachers and am thankful that we have been able to maintain connections through social media. Most importantly, I have a renewed energy and appreciation for teaching. I couldn’t wait to get back to school and start a brand new year. Maybe I’ll do another fellowship again soon…I’m not too old!
Sharon and team on the road in Ghana
Written by Sharon Shearer
LRTT Ghana Fellow
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