The worldwide Augustana College experience

Ainsworth- Jamaica 5

Jamaica- A Learning Experience

I love being outdoors and the Great huts was a wonderful experience, but I am more of a city girl and was glad to get into a location where I could find snacks and clothes right down the road. Our drive to Kingston was interesting, to say the least, including stops at the Blue Mountain coffee shop, Strawberry Hill (where Chris Blackwell used to live and where Bob Marley stayed after he was shot), some pretty scary hills, and a car accident. I was surprised how relaxed I became during the ride; I realized that we had no choice but to drive in the mountains, and that we would be fine. When we arrived to Kingston, I was glad to see a shopping mall, and was excited  to see the dynamics of the city. 

As my group met to plan the next night, we still could not plan very much because we had no clue how many boys we would be working with, or what age they would be. When we left for the Alpha school the next day, I had the Jamaican of attitude that it would all work itself out. 

Arriving at the Alpha school was amazing; I had so many emotions running through me that I could not even put them into words. We pulled up to a huge group of Alpha girls waiting for us and the math teachers began to get super nervous. I just wanted to meet our students and get started! We made our way into the Alpha girls auditorium where we met Mr. Singh (the Alpha girls principal) who invited us on stage to introduce ourselves. The Alpha girls began to sing, and I had to fight back all of my emotions. I am not an emotional person at all, but I had so many thoughts going through my head and was so impressed that these girls were here on their break because they know that an education is possibly their only hope. Mr. Singh had the Alpha girls sang “One Love” by Bob Marley and we all joined in. I really felt the unity that the people of Jamaica strive for, and for that one moment we all really were one. 

After I collected myself, we walked to the Alpha boys part of the campus where we met the principal Sister Susan. She gave us a word of advice that we can be stern with the boys because they will test their limits (which I felt completely ready for!) We then met one of the main child care leaders of the campus, Collin. He showed us the room with all 80 beds where the Alpha boys sleep and my heart sank. I knew this was the case, but I again became filled with sadness (twice in one day.. that’s a record for me). As we still did not have the rest of the day figured out yet, we ventured to the computer lab where we thankfully met Brother Armond. He worked with us to create a schedule for the day and split the boys into groups based in grade level which helped us immensely since we had no way to really plan up to this point. After we got the logistics organized I became much more excited to teach the Alpha boys!

We were told that our first group would be about 10 first graders, and our second group would be about 12 second graders. We soon learned that the content that first graders know in American is quite different than what Jamaicans in first grade know. The “first graders” were able to add easily and the “second graders” were able to multiply! We also noticed that the boys were of all ages, and were mainly just split based  on ability level as opposed to age. Working with the boys was a lot of fun and we learned a lot from them! They are so outgoing and courageous; one even said to Julia “Excuse me Miss, you are disturbing my ears” when she was singing! I was surprised to learn that the boys know a lot of American artists, such as Nikki Minaj (even thought she is “as ugly as a bird”), Usher, and Chris Brown. Although we had a wonderful time learning about the boys and their lives, we did actually get through a math lesson as well! We worked on addition with the first graders, and multiplication with the second graders. The boys are very bright, and after seeing their ability levels, I am excited to create lesson plans for tomorrow and work on their math skills even further and hopefully in different ways than they have seen before. 

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