Helping Wallingford and Ghana explore educational exchanges

Dear reader, I’d like to introduce you to my friend: her name is Julie Foss and she is the Assistant Principal of Wallingford Public Schools in the State of Connecticut (CT) USA. We crossed paths back in 2014 when I lived in CT and we had started work together on a program that seeks to explore the differences and similarities of the educational systems in our respective countries, how they affect peoples involved and how all could positively learn from them in order to gain more knowledge with a much more open-mindedness towards a positive progression.

I had hoped to involve some schools in Ghana where some of the young pupils and tutors could explore opportunities of such an exchange program by traveling between the countries involved or taking advantage of the Internet and other means to connect educationally and intercultural.

Life, however, had its own plans for this idea of ours, so it spent some more time ruminating. Then fast-forward to the 2nd week of September 2015, about a year later, fate brought us together, this time with me now living in the Washington DC area and Julie still in her Wallingford CT hometown.

With the burning desire to go to Ghana still there for both of us (its been 7+ years since my last trip) and the genuine craving to explore the reasons behind this desire, both personally and communally, the universe and the forces that ensure nothing happens without a reason has brought us together, through the power of the Internet again. So, once more, we’re giving the initial idea that brought us together with another shot.

For those of you who know me and are reading this, especially in Ghana, please don’t hesitate in acting upon your instincts and guts as I share with you why Julie wants to come to Ghana and what she hopes to achieve from that. Below, in her own words are her reasons as shared from her blog post:

“Dear Universe,

Last week I went to Barnes and Noble and my hand fell on a book entitled Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields. I read the first 15 pages without moving, closed the book and walked up to the checkout counter to buy it. As my husband and I got into the car I said, “I know where I fit now.” Cryptic sentences encapsulating self-actualized moments are, unfortunately for my husband of ten years, not an altogether unusual occurrence. I don’t know that he did more than raise an eyebrow before I launched into an idea I had dismissed as “crazy” a few months before.

“I would like to go to Finland, China, Australia, and Ghana and spend time living in each country.” Hearing no comment from the peanut gallery but ensuring the gallery was still breathing, I continued….”I want to go to Finland to study how, in just 50 years’ time Finland has transformed its teacher preparation programs and professional development to lead the world in education. I want to go to China because I am fascinated by whether there is any part of a merit based system that merits adoption. I want to go to Australia because I desire to know what the field of education stands to gain by opening itself up to other industries. And I want to go to Ghana because I need to know what we have lost by piling initiative upon initiative to address public education in the United States.

“Ghana, though widely know for its stability, is absent both the resources and hierarchical structure that consume public education in the US. I need to know what school looks like when it is a privilege to go.” The gallery was still breathing, but I wasn’t taking any chances…. ”I want to go to each of these places and write a book about the takeaways from each experience and how each might be applied to schools here in the US. I’d like to come back and consult with school districts about how to apply these takeaways, not to create new programs and build fancy new schools from scratch but to look thoughtfully at existing ones and make changes that yield real results on either teacher preparation, student achievement, innovative practices, or core values and sustainability.”

“My husband, human saint on earth took a deep breath and without mentioning that I had never written a book, that, as educators with 3 children we are not exactly living a nomadic existence, or that we didn’t have 16 months’ worth of income socked away to “Eat, Pray, Love” our way through international education, simply asked, “Can the girls and I come?” Of course! Oh my gosh, hadn’t I started with that?!

“Universe, you might be wondering why I am throwing this out to you. A colleague recently said to me, “why not?.” I recently shared with someone that ideas are simply ideas. To get them to go I believe you need to build relationships. I hope giving voice to this idea will be a first step toward building relationships and making it a reality.”

So there you have it, the reasons why Julie Foss, an Assistant Principal of Wallingford Public Schools in the state of Connecticut in the USA wants to travel the world and also go to Ghana, my home country in West Africa. My friend’s idea also falls in line with my quest to discover ways of making the educational systems in Ghana better for students, teachers, administrators, parents and all stakeholders involved. We both think you or someone you know or even maybe an idea you might have, now or later, might be amazingly beneficial to this idea. So please don’t hesitate to share them.

Follow Julie on Twitter with @foss_j12 to let her know what ideas might be germinating in your mind about the above or send an email to me using and I will make sure she gets your messages. For now, am sending shout-outs to Rexford Nkansah, Ato Ulzen-Appiah, Jemila Abdulai, John Blossom, Derrydean Dadzie, Allison Patterson, and a host of other individuals that I know are equally passionate about sharing and learning ways to enhance education for young people, more grease to your elbows.

A seed has been planted, let the watering begin, for no one knows tomorrow, but we can all work towards it because as the saying goes for adults and young adult: we do not own this world, the world and its future belongs to the young ones, they have simply been kind to entrust it into our care, hoping that we can take good care of it on their behalves. We trust us all to do a great job. Sleep on this and don’t be afraid to share along.

Oh and Julie, next time I am in Wallingford (which will be soon as my wife is a Wallingford native), I wouldn’t mind answering questions about Ghana from you, the school kids or teachers.

Written by Oral Ofori of #TheAfricanDream

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