The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jamaican Experience 3

     We were greeted by the Alpha Girls School with a welcoming assembly, while all us Augie volunteers sat on stage and the girls sang. It was very sweet of them. The headmaster praised Mike’s accomplishments in the past and was very thrilled that we were there to help out his students. Many of us became teary eyed as Mike was introduced. It was the first time we, Augie teachers, felt that we were wanted at the schools.
     Once my elementary education group arrived at the boy’s school, we were surprised of how little notification the staff received of us coming to teach for three days. We had a supervisor of the boys give us a tour of their campus, but no one understood that we had lessons ready to teach that day. We all began to worry that we would not be able to teach these boys and that the staff didn’t want us there.

      Then we met Brother Armond. He is great. He has been setting everything up for us. The first day he was able to round some boys up for us to teach, and he cleared some space for us to work in. Once we had lunch we were ready to assess the students to figure out where we should start with our curriculum.  We were only able to work with two groups, 1st and 2nd graders. We began having no idea where the students were at academically, and it was extremely difficult, since their ages did not match up to their mathematic abilities as they do in the United States. Our assessment worked fairly well; however, some of the questions we asked were worded awkwardly, making the boys struggle to understand us. Our assessment was standard for each grade. It began at a ‘U.S.’ kindergardener’s level and gradually increased through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
       The boys were a bit crazy to control and understand, but once we sat down that night and reviewed their assessments, we were better able to split them into groups based on their abilities. We split the first graders into two groups and the second graders into two groups. We thought this was a great idea, and for the most part it was. Although, we ended up getting a few boys we have never met before randomly appear in our preset groups. Some of the boys that showed up with the lower elementary students were often in grades 5 or 6. Of course we didn’t know that right away, because age really means little in correlation to these boy’s mathematics knowledge. We figured out how to differentiate for these more advanced boys, by giving them harder iPad apps or problems to work with. Also, one-on-one attention was truly the best way to help the students that were unique in their mathematics understanding compared to the overall groups we were presented with.
      While planning these past two nights, we realized the students would learn best if we split the students into their two designated groups and each group had one designated teacher. My group was the less advanced first graders. I began teaching them missing addend addition using word problems on the smart board. The students enjoyed writing their equations and solutions on the board and then using pictures of soccer balls as manipulatives to explain their thought processes. Once they seemed like they had grasped the concept, we worked on the iPad with the program “Math Minis”. The students used the addition and subtraction categories within this game. A few students of mine were ready to move onto simple subtraction. Since most of them solved problems with tally marks, I taught the the technique of counting on to solve subtraction problems. They really enjoyed that.
       Brother Armond spoke to us after day 2 and explained how much he enjoyed all of the different techniques we were sharing with the students to help them solve various problems in new ways. These boys are only taught the basics of their operations. They are expected to memorize and figure the answers out in their own ways. They do not get taught techniques to help them in the process. Techniques are what help students really understand mathematical concepts, which help them understand more difficult math in the future. So we were all really dedicated to teaching various techniques. We taught partial products, adding on, the multiplication by nines trick, grouping in multiplication and division, borrowing in subtraction and many other techniques.
      The last day we were invited to an event at the girl’s school. It was so uplifting, and once again a tear jerker. They preformed for us, they had some of our teachers participate, they thanked us, and Mike, numerous times, we were given tokens (keychains) of their appreciation and Mike even spoke, or preached, to the girls to continue with their education. His speech was great, and we were really able to see his past and present dedication to this school of girls.
      Throughout our time spent at the boy’s school, I was able to catch bits and pieces of a few boys playing their instruments. They were wonderful, even though our fellow Augie teachers notified us that the boys cannot read music and have never heard their music being played by anyone other then each other. These musicians were clearly dedicated and well behaved. Music is what will keep some of these boys out of trouble, as we have read about in Catch a Fire, the Bob Marly documentary. It was truly inspiring to all of us, and most clearly to the Augie music teaching group.
      Although our elementary education group at the boy’s school were very unaware of every aspect at their school going into this project, I believe we all feel that we made some positive helpful impressions on the students who wanted our help the most. Even the boys who were uninterested in our instruction liked to communicate, take pictures and play on the  iPads with us. The boys have so little at their school, it is hard to take in. All of the boys enjoyed our presence and took away something, whether it was educational, instrumental or miscellaneous, from our group. That should be the real meaning of us attending the boy’s school: to affect them in the most positive ways possible and for them to learn what they are most interested in from us.

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