August 14, 2012

Democratic Classrooms

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Democratic Classrooms-Participant Stories- Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program Democratic Classrooms-Participant Stories- Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program
Abubakari Iddrisu, a high school teacher from central Ghana, completed a six week professional development program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia as part of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) program.  Iddrisu, teaches at Boa Amponsem Senior High School, a public school in the rural community of Dunkwa, where most of the parents of the 1,740 students are farmers. 

Before he arrived to the United States, Iddrisu acknowledges he was concerned about working with students;  he thought that they wouldn’t care and would be disrespectful to their teachers.

“I saw that it wasn’t like that,” explains Iddrisu. “Teachers in the U.S. are very open and comfortable with students.  Classrooms have a more democratic atmosphere.” 

“In Ghana, students are expected to show respect for teachers by not disagreeing with them. In U.S. classrooms students are encouraged to reflect on what a teacher says, and are free to agree or disagree.”

This appealed to the energetic social studies teacher and Iddrisu  looked forward to developing more independence in his students in Ghana. 

“I see now that each student has something to contribute to the discussion,” says Iddrisu.” When I let them know that I don’t necessarily know everything, I help them develop.  When we rely too much on lecture, they become too dependent on us.  When we feed them, they don’t learn to fish for themselves.” 

On the TEA program, Iddrisu also learned about technology in education.  As a geography teacher, he was struck with the speed with which students understood plate tectonics when his U.S. colleague used an animated video to teach this concept. 

“The students understood quickly and were interested,” explains Iddrisu.  “At home, I have to draw this on the black board.  It takes more time.” 

Access to technology resources is a challenge in Iddrisu’s rural community.  Having seen the value of using technology in the classroom on the TEA program, he believes he will be able to convince the head of his school to bring the Internet to the school’s computer room and invest in other technology resources. 

“I can educate students on the use of the Internet, make sure they understand how to assess the reliability of sources, and guide them on the authenticity of materials,” says Iddrisu. “So they will be ready when they do have access… and will be more prepared to use technology than I was when I first encountered it at university.”

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