The worldwide Augustana College experience

First 2 Days of Teaching!

Well today marked our first day at the Alpha Boys School. We were all very anxious to enter the school setting to experience what the schools and students are like in Jamaica. Being in the group that was teaching elementary aged boys, we didn’t have much information regarding the age levels we would be working with and the content to work on with them so we planned as best we could with the information we had to work with. That being said, we were especially anxious to show up at the campus and meet the boys we would be working with for the next 3 days.

     The Alpha campus is separated into three sections: the primary school, the girls’ secondary school, and the boys’ school which is also an orphanage. When we all arrived at the campus we attended an assembly at the girls’ school where Mike used to teach when he lived in Jamaica. At the assembly we heard their headmaster talk about what an influence Mike had on the girls and the school during his seven years teaching there which was so cool to see, it almost made me tear up listening to the headmaster describe what a great educator our professor is; I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be taught by him. The headmaster also talked about the girls at the school and how even though it is their winter break, over 100 girls showed up on the day that our group started teaching in order to receive extra instruction in math. That says a lot about the girls and their willingness to succeed in school since the Alpha school is their chance to make something of themselves. After attending the assembly, the math teachers in our group went to their designated classrooms and the rest of us made our way over to the boys’ school to meet the boys.

     When we got to the boys’ school, the first place we went to was the principals office so she could talk to us about the boys. It was there that we were first informed that the orphanage housed “delinquents,” as she called them, and said that they are placed at the orphanage because they have run out of chances, which was super sad to me considering some of the boys who stay there are as young as six and seven. She warned us that there will be boys misbehaving to the point that they would have to be removed from the activities and that we should prepared to be hit on by the boys considering that they do not have much contact with girls. At this point, I was real nervous to begin working with them. We still didn’t know what boys we would be working with or what we would be teaching which was frustrating to us but we knew we just had to roll with the punches since there didn’t seem to be a set schedule for us at all. Luckily while we were on a tour of the school we ran into a man who worked there, Brother Armond, who basically set up a whole schedule for us based on the grade levels that the boys were learning at and informed us that they needed the most help with math concepts. We were all so relieved at this point that we had some sort of structure but the only thing that was sort of a bummer was that since it took so long to get organized, we were only able to teach the boys for two hours in the afternoon that day. In those two hours, we had the chance to talk to the boys and get to know them a little better. If the principal hadn’t had told us that these boys were sent to the school/orphanage for various reasons, I would have had no idea. They were all so polite, respectful, and some even a little shy. At the end of the first day, we knew that we had a lot to talk about and plan before we saw the rest of the boys the following day.
     The next day we taught grade levels 1-5. Even though we were teaching these various grades levels, the age of the boys varied in each level, we even had a 15-year old boy in the first grade group, it all depended on which skill level each boy was at. We learned a lot about the boys this day in terms of which mathematical concepts they could do and what we should plan for them to do our last day of teaching. We all agreed that all of the boys knew a lot more than we expected them to for their grade levels which made us realize that the math content learned in American primary schools differ a lot from Jamaican schools. For example, a majority of the boys in the second grade level were doing multiplication facts by memory, which would be very advanced for a second grader in the United States. We took a lot of helpful notes during our time with the boys so that we could come up with plans for Friday based on their needs.
    It has been difficult teaching with fewer resources than we are used to. Though the boys’ school does have a Smart Board which we were very surprised about, they lack resources that we teachers take for granted in the United States such as white boards for the kids to use, overhead projectors, and desks since we are placed in a room with no desks for the boys to use. In these circumstances, we have to be creative and work with what we have to make our time with the boys beneficial to them and us. Though it has been difficult and frustrating at times,  I’m very eager to teach the boys for the final time tomorrow and also spend our last full day in Jamaica! Can’t believe the end has come so soon!

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