July 14, 2013
Teachers Learn the Cowboy Way at Professional Development in GhanaBy Lori Lynn Ahrends
Accra, Ghana (June 28, 2013) Professors, teachers, and staff from the USA held teaching seminars at three locations in Ghana this week. Over 300 teachers and administrators from the surrounding areas of Swedru, Kamasi, and Suhum attended the seminars, which were led by the Louisiana College of Education and the Opportunity Education.
Seminar participants engaged in over eleven different topics of study including; Thinking Maps; Lesson Design; Instructional Strategies; Learning Disabilities; and Brain Research. A highlight of the seminar was a keynote address from Dr. Randy Esters, Dean of Louisiana College of Education, entitled, "Teaching the Cowboy Way". In this presentation, Dr. Esters pointed out the similarities between teaching children and training horses. He was careful to stress that he was not saying children are animals, which gave the audience a laugh. He simply used his experience in training horses and related it to good teaching strategies. Some techniques that work for both children and horses are; short but intense lessons are most effective; provide praise; communicate exactly what you expect; and both horses and children learn best when they are moving.
The presence of the Opportunity Education (OE) was an important part of the seminar. OE is a foundation based in Omaha Nebraska, USA, which provides learning materials and curriculum to over 1, 500 schools in 13 different countries. OE sends TV's, DVD players, learning materials, and teaching DVD's to classrooms at no cost to the school. The founder and benefactor of OE is Joe Ricketts. OE serves 115 schools in Ghana, many of which have benefited from the program for 5 or more years. The president of OE, Jim Ricketts, along with other OE staff, were available during the seminar to answer questions about the program and to provide ideas and guidance on how to best use the materials and lessons to enrich the national curriculum.
Teachers and administrators who attended the seminar received a stipend for their participation. This stipend was paid by OE. When asked why OE made teacher training a part of their mission, Jim Ricketts, president responded, "One of the keys to quality education for students is having quality teachers. We want to provide opportunities for teachers to build on their skills and become the best they can be, so that they can give the best to their students."
Participants responded enthusiastically to the seminar. They applauded many presentations and were engaged throughout the three days. One teacher is quoted as saying, "This seminar has made me a better teacher. I will be diligent in using the things I have learned. Thank you!"