The Experiences That Shape Us by Juliette Awua-Kyerematen

The experiences that shape us into the teacher-writer we are today image

Juliette Awua-Kyerematen is a fourth grade teacher in Ghana, West Africa and has been a part of the Time to Write Workshop for several months. Here she tells her story of becoming a teacher who writes.

How it all Began

Growing up in Ghana in the 70s, my grandmother shared many stories with us. I remember sitting on wooden benches with my siblings and cousins, many evenings, in the dark backyard of our house with our legs stretched out. She’d tap our legs, singing a song to create a pattern before starting the story.

Her repeated call and response followed and it went like this:

Pem pnaaa

We would respond, ”Nanaaa,” in a drawn rhythm.

She would use her imagination and add to an original story, making the twists even more elaborate. Grandma’s stories were told in Twi, one of the popular Ghanaian languages. Those were great times. I wish we had written all those original stories down or recorded them.

Interestingly, I can’t recall being a writer at school. All our lessons were taught in English as that is the formal language in Ghana. I remember the major emphasis on letter formation and handwriting. I also remember being taught to write essays with restricted outlines, using the teachers’ format. I can’t remember writing poetry or any non-fiction texts, although we used to memorize many poems and recite them with exaggerated gestures and expressions. Most of the writing activities were from textbooks and proved to be very prescribed.

At my elementary school, our spelling lessons were ‘drills’. We had a list of random words to learn by heart and as I was really good at memorizing, I turned out to be one of the best spellers. I can’t remember if we were taught any morphology, but I know there was no word I could not spell.

Mama bought us diaries in which we were supposed to record our daily adventures. As this was unsupervised, the diary did not see many words. I must have occasionally scribbled something in mine and ended up using it to doodle as part of our play.