Monday, 18 June 2012

My skills

If you are a home schooling parent like me, you don’t fully value your competence and your expertise. Although you have a three year old reading at first grade level, you don’t think you did something great. Your friends and colleagues congratulate you, but you don’t congratulate yourself. I use to be that mom, but I know better now. I want to share what I do and how I taught my children to be full fledged readers at 3 years old. I begin teaching my children by focusing on alphabet (song and recognition). I use a series of tools. Brainy Baby DVDS, my own voice and other educational DVDS with relevant materials. I also allow lots of scribble time. I have tons of notebooks and scrap paper, readily available. I sing the alphabet as the preferred lullaby. In addition to that, I encourage them to start spelling words, or noticing letters in word formation. Once they mastered that, I move on to the sounds of the letters. From sounds, we begin reading. The experts (my hubby) state that recognizing alphabets and sounds are reading. My 3 year old just finished an entire book, published for 4-6 year olds, today. I also love Reader Rabbit software once they learned some basic reading. Once reading is mastered, I begin addition. Along learning the alphabet, I also teach the numbers. We have a number wall chart. They begin by counting to 20. It’s easier to get them to 20 because it’s a no brainer after that. They learn the pattern and feel pretty good about themselves. Once numbers are learned to 20, they start tracing numbers and coloring them as needed. I begin arithmetic once we get to 100. Here is my early math program. I have a collection of water bottle caps. I number two sets 1-9. I also have three extras which I use for signs and symbols of math (+, -, =, etc.) We begin by using the numbers to form equations. Then we use real tools to help us solve the equations. For example, we can use either trains, pencils, or anything that the child has an affiliation for to show how they can get more of that special thing or share and get less. Again the experts state that making math more relevant and hands on is the way to get them excited about it. The abstract math of yesteryear is well passé…finally! Here is a sample problem. 3 + 2 = Under each number, the child puts the object (trains, pencils, etc) under each number. And to solve it, they bring them together. So the problem becomes: you have 3 trains and mommy gives you 2 more, how many do you have in all? The object is in is hands; it is real. He can relate and able to solve it easily and with more interest. The sky is the limit after this foundation has been laid. I hope this helps you, but remember that each child will learn differently. Be flexible and enjoy!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

My salary with a Ph.D. working in Ghana is equal to that of a McDonald’s worker in NYC.

UNESCO just came out with the same old findings to new research; that not enough (well paid) teachers pose serious challenges to education in Africa. While there is a demand for teachers, few students dream of becoming one in the future. Why? Teachers are the most underpaid and underperforming group. Why wouldn’t that affect how children are taught? Why is no one discussing this? I made $18,500 working as a professor at Ashesi, one of the world’s most promising universities. While some would assume that living in Ghana is less expensive than the “developed” world, let me give you an idea of my expenses. I pay $700-900/month on rent. Most renters have to pay 2 years in advance for property; so that is $700x24=$16,800. And unlike the US where property value is determined by where you live; in Ghana, your house is valued based on how it looks. For example, I live in a “good” house, but my next door neighbors are squatters. They live on a huge piece of land which they have turned into a farm and they sleep in a one room shack on it. Gasoline prices are relatively higher here than in the US. And most of my colleagues are US educated, so we are all wallowing in paying higher debt. I owe about $50k…yes, US, American dollars! Here is the dilemma of working in Ghana. Not just in academia but in general. No one wants to pay workers what they are worth. And of course, teachers of any kind are the least paid, although professors are highly regarded. When was the last time you paid rent with high regard? I digress. Furthermore, because educators are not highly paid, the highly educated ones join and form the brain drain out of Ghana. They can be found in the hallways of Sidwell to Harvard. And the ones left, the least educated, the least able to pull higher salaries are less motivated, less trained and less willing to give their best to our children in the classrooms. However, that is not considered a problem for that particular education institution. Why? Because institutions in Ghana consider their workers “privilege” to be working for them! Schools are operated like any business in Ghana. One has the demand, in the right part of town and some gadgets to set them apart. This “new thing” brings about demand and higher cost, but does not trickle down to the employees. You see in Ghana, employees are also considered part of the demand. People are looking for “good” places to work. Good places open up. With few good places and higher demand, the employer is able to pay workers at the lowest prices possible. Hence why I would accept $18k at Ashesi than something hire in an older bureaucratic institution where politicking keeps much work from getting done. If I had not worked in Ghana, I would have been one of the people thinking the education systems need to focus on students as opposed to teachers. I know better now. Poor education systems won’t be overturned if more is not done for teachers and the perception of working in Africa. If teachers are not better trained and better motivated, they will continue hurting our children and ruining their abilities to compete in the future. Hurt people; hurt people. We have already seen the results of their hurt, when will we begin to address it?