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How does it feel to be an educator in Jamaica during this current pandemic?
“For many individuals, this is a dreaded time period; however, as an educator it is a time period that I am fully embracing for the simple fact that the situation is allowing me to reflect on the discipline of education. I am constantly analyzing myself to find ways to heighten my pedagogical skills and improve on my efficacy as an educator. This pandemic is a perfect catalyst for me to demonstrate what it is to be a lifelong learner. I have enrolled in and successfully completed a number of courses relating to the field to ensure that I am fully prepared to take on the challenges that are ahead. It is a time to focus also on self-care, and the little things that we oftentimes take for granted. It’s a time to retool, reshape, reimagine. Like many persons I’m apprehensive about the uncertainty of this period; I dare say it is scary, not just for teachers but for our clients, the children and their parents but notwithstanding, I’m determined to remain optimistic. This is a great test, and failure is not an option. When all is said and done, only one’s best is good enough.”
Are there any recommendations you can make to teachers who are struggling at this time?
“To the teachers who are struggling at this point in time, my recommendation to you is to pause, meditate, retool, re-imagine and recreate. Your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health ARE of the utmost importance at this time. Rome was not built in a day! This environment is completely new to a lot of educators and so it is important to note that change is a process and as such, mastery will take time. The saying “teamwork makes the dream work” is indeed true. Team members must rely on each other in order to achieve their daily goals. Now more than ever, it is important to rely on individuals who have specific skill sets in certain areas all while seeking to sharpen individual weaknesses.”
Would Jamaica benefit from a national gap year (no school until next year September)?
“My unorthodox self is smiling with a resounding yes! A gap year could result in several positives for us as a people. I do not see learning as a construct that happens solely in a classroom with a facilitator. This time could see students engaging in self-discovery, the creation of vicarious experiences, the focusing on good values and attitudes and what it really means to be a good global citizen. The time could be used to focus on some sustainable practices such as subsistence farming – how nice it would be to get these students into backyard gardening, learning about nature and how it keeps us in sync. These things are of value. I’m already seeing Mathematics, English, Science, Technology and Technical Drawing come alive. The scope for new knowledge is endless, and the most amazing thing is that the students would literally be taking responsibility for their own learning. How exhilarating the new school year would be for me as an educator.
This is my utopian view; however, I’m fully aware that there are a number of factors that might hinder this kind of arrangement. For many students school is an escape from their gruesome realities. It is the only place that many get an opportunity to be themselves, to hear a voice that actually cares about the issues that they face, and it is the springboard for developing meaningful lifelong relationships. I’m also cognizant of the fact that there are some students who may actually regress academically if the decision was made for a gap year so in essence, I am somewhat undecided in determining if a gap year would have been beneficial to Jamaica.”
How can students maintain their motivation with so much digital learning going on?
“A student who is intrinsically motivated may very well cope easily using online platforms for learning providing he/she is au fait with technology. On the other hand, a student who relies on external motivation must be supported by teachers, parents and peers. Since learning is taking place online it is important for the teacher to demonstrate a lot of creativity in ensuring that students remain engrossed in the learning experience and find it rewarding.
Suggestions are to have a student of the week, hat day, a virtual lunch hour party, online peer reviews, post assessment, motivate with rewards and praise, or having a free talk session for 5 minutes of the class time. In the home parents have to find ways and means to have conversations with their children about how they are progressing in school.
The cliche question “Did you get homework today?” should be avoided. The child might feel a bit more pressured, especially after sitting in front of a screen for the entire school day. Instead, parents can learn of their child’s progress while engaging in family activities. For example, a parent can check to see if a child understands sequencing by having them participate in baking a cake for the family. Parents can also motivate their children by taking the time to learn the content they are being exposed to. The old adage is true – children live what they learn, children learn what they live.”
Where do you see Jamaica’s education system in the next five years?
“In five years the education landscape in Jamaica undoubtedly will change. Greater technology will be used in facilitating teaching and learning at all four levels. I believe the use of a blended approach will become institutionalized, particularly at the secondary level (this could address the class size issues).
The paradigm shift will result in greater scope for individualized learning, thereby catapulting the concept of lifelong learning.
The role of the teacher may change from facilitator to being mentors. Perhaps not in 5, but 10 years.”
Blessings in abundance!