Tag Archives: Children

Capture Bliss

Capture Bliss

Apparently someone posed the question on Twitter what bliss looks like and thousands of people promptly replied with links to pictures of small moments of bliss they experienced.

This is a picture of bliss. We all have worries, but for me the moments of bliss are when those worries become invisible–our mind is occupied with something much more enjoyable (i.e. bliss).

Obruni State-Side

This obruni hasn’t posted in a very long time… He apologizes for that. But while the posts have been lacking, the experiences have not.

During the last year, I slaved away at eradicating the achievement gap for second graders in Brownsville, Brooklyn in New York City. What effect did I have? I’m unsure. While the data always came back consisting of average scores, I feel confident that my scholars are ready for the next grade. This experience was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and maybe ever will do. However, while I left most days wondering why I had signed up for this experience I was reminded of my passions and my abilities.

I am a person who believes in the good of other people; someone who wants every individual to be given the opportunity to maximize their own potential. We walk by people in the streets unaware of what they’re capable of. Often, we automatically jump to fear of another’s capabilities, but why not assume that the person has the power to change the world for the good? Perhaps, with the right teaching and determination that individual will find the cure to a disease the world so desperately needs. That’s what I want to do…not find the cure to a disease, but inspire and give others the tools necessary to do so. I want to light a flame that will spread like wildfire. I want to make a small hole in a dam that one day will cave under the pressure of the goodness behind it.

I used to say I wanted to change the world and of course there were nay-sayers who thought this naive and foolish. However, I believe it to be possible. Perhaps having a tremendous impact on the whole world would be difficult, but I can changed the world of some people and hopefully create a model for doing so that can be replicated in other areas and eventually spread throughout the whole world.

This is what I’ve come to: I enjoy teaching. Waking up and coming to school every day to greet the scholars in my class is not a chore, but I want more. I need to go and do this where others are not willing to. The achievement gap isn’t limited to America’s inner-city children; there are millions of children across the globe suffering from lack of opportunity who need someone to give them the tools/resources to be successful. Over the last few months I have really reflected on what this looks like for me and I have come to the conclusion that I will open my own elementary school in either Ghana or Kenya. The school will initially house and educate students in pre-k and Kindergarten and then add an additional grade each year thereafter through high school. With the help of volunteers, missionaries, community members, and churches we will decimate the achievement gap in the local community and prepare an army of scholars ready to address the challenges afflicting their community and nation.

I have one more year left in my commitment to Teach for America–a year in which I will continue to develop my skills to prepare and qualify me to make lasting change in the community of my future endeavor. I look forward to pursuing this dream and sharing the process with you.

Part Two: Day 3: July 31

Well, the rest of my day consisted of making noises with my mouth to entertain the younger boys and playing “volleyball.” I also managed to work on some English lessons with four of the children.

Playing led to a photoshoot with the children who absolutely loved looking at themselves. I still have so many more pictures I should take, though. In the near future, I want to write a post about each of the members of the family, pictures of course will have to wait until I return to the states…

Dinner tonight consisted of a traditional Kenyan dish, Ugali, and a stew. I much prefer Ugali to its counterparts in Ghana; it was not as doughy or sour as Kenkey or Fufu–more like Omo Tuo (rice ball).

Following dinner, we sat conversing and Joseph brought up his eldest son who’s name is also Samuel (pronounced Sam-well) and mentioned that he is “mental.” When I met Samuel, I knew something was off, but I’m not too fond of the adjective “mental.” Currently he is on some sort of medication (tablets) that are not as effective as an injection he can get at the local hospital/clinic. Having only been here three days, I volunteered to pay for the injection, so hopefully we will notice a change after he gets that on Wednesday. I’m not quite sure why I volunteered to do this, I just felt compelled to help in one of the few ways that I could.

Despite this being such a unique experience, one where I’ve done things I would never do at home (i.e. handle feces), I can’t help but feel that I belong in some weird way–that really says a lot about my host family considering the short time I’ve been here…



Yesterday I decided to whip out some of the school supplies I was able to bring and declared the day Mechanical Pencil Monday. FAIL. Well, it wasn’t a complete fail; At least now I know to give gifts at the end of the day.

I began giving pencils out early in the day and the kids were extremely appreciative. For every one I gave I received a “Thank you, sir. God bless you.” The children guarded them like treasure and had big smiles on their faces; it was nice to see something that we would regard as a simple gesture to be received and appreciated so greatly!

With that said, the kids fought and fought. “Godwin stole my pencil from my pocket!” or “My graphite is gone!” Well kids, figure it out… I am not the pencil police and I’m sorry. I eventually just told them to put them away or I would collect them because it was impossible to get anything done in the classroom with the disruptions.

I wanted the kids to be able to use the pencils so I told them that I would see about getting more lead or graphite as they say. On the other side of Accra there is Accra Mall and it is basically a western mall; there are a ton of Obrunis there and high-class Ghanaians. It saddens me to think that many foreigners come to Africa and see only this side of Accra—this isn’t Africa; this isn’t the way most people live at all. Also, this mall is the only place where you will see children begging and they aren’t even African children, they are Indian children; I swear it is like something out of Slumdog Millionaire. They see you, come up to you, grab your arm and say “Master, a bite to eat; some money?” And they usually hang on for about a minute and while it is heartbreaking and can also be a little obnoxious.

Anyway, at the Accra Mall there are two big grocery stores that carry a variety of products, one of them being lead/graphite. We got to the aisle where the school supplies were and graphite was like 8 cedis (about $7)—UNREASONABLE. Everything is much more expensive there because mainly upper-class people go there, but for me that was just too much. Even deodorant was around 10 to 11 cedis ($9).

Today (6-16-2010) I apologized to the students for not being able to get graphite; however, I was able to get a couple of storybooks which made today’s Creative Arts lessons all the more worthwhile. Yeah, today I taught Creative Arts; it’s beginning to look like I am just going to be a go-to teacher for when another teacher doesn’t want to teach. I taught two creative arts classes, one math class on probability, and a social studies class on Ghana’s Cooperation with Other Nations (basically on participation with UN, ECOWAS, & African Union). I was exhausted by the end of it; I just woke up from a 1 hour and 20 minute nap and I feel good J

All of my teaching is done on the spot because I don’t have any of the books to prepare ahead of time and often I don’t even know what I am teaching until I am teaching it. In one of the Creative Arts classes we talked about the necessary parts for a story (characters, subject matter, title, audience, etc.) and then I read them a story and we then answered questions about what we had previously discussed. The next Creative Arts class was several years ahead of the last class so the book would have not been as engaging. Instead, we also talked about the different parts of a story, but this time they were supposed to come up with one of their own that they could act out for the class. We came up with the subject matter and four characters together, the rest was up to them.

It is extremely difficult for these kids to do anything on their own, as in think creatively or for themselves. None of the plays include what we had talked about as far as characters or subject matter go. In addition, one group found a play in their book and read straight from that and the other teacher actually encouraged this despite my instructions—that was a little disappointing. I am going to make it my personal mission to get these kids to somehow think for themselves when it comes to their writing and creative thinking. I asked for examples of subject matter and everything I got was HIV/AIDS, Drug Abuse, Obedience, Disobedience, Death, etc. I’m not sure they completely understood me when I said that stories could also be about fun/exciting things (i.e. playing football (soccer here), cooking dinner, a birthday celebration, etc.).

I actually just finished reading PUSH by Sapphire, the book that the movie Precious was based on. This book was an excellent read, especially considering my new mission of teaching these kids to THINK. In addition, the book simply teaches you to love. I would definitely suggest you read it, but beware because it is graphic at times.

Sam G

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