The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jamaica Journal 3

The anticipation was killing me! I was so excited to reach our final Kingston destination! Although the trek through the steep and windy blue mountains were not as enjoyable, it was worth the struggle as soon as I saw the boys at the Alpha School.

We arrived at the school early on Wednesday morning. Before heading over to the boys school (on the opposite side of the property) we went inside the Alpha girls school to sit and watch an opening ceremony. It began with a great speech by principal Sing along with some prayers and songs. This was a great way to kick off the day and we soon left the. Ate group and ventured over to the boy’s school. Upon arriving we felt out of place. Prior to arriving we were given no exact details of what to expect, such as the umber of boys, their ability level, or their ages. We met the school principal, a very disciplined and stern woman, who warned us that this was the boys’ last chance and we should make sure we keep them in place. This was a startling realization, because many of us were unaware that many of the students were at Alpha due to certain circumstances resulting in court ordered sentencing. We were under the assumption that the majority of the students were orphans, however this was a smaller percentage. We then met a man name Brother Armond, our knight in shining armour, although he was just wearing cargo shorts and a polo.  Brother Armond is the computer teacher at Alpha and was the first one to help us create a schedule for the students to come work with us. He told us that there were 5 grade levels (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th), however these grade levels did not indicate age (the students’ ages ranged from 9 to 18 found in all grades). He then told us he would send grades 1 and 2 to our room after lunch.
It was a long morning, but after quite a few lesson plan changes and a solid lunch of patties, we were ready for the students. I was extremely excited to be working with the scone graders, yet did not anticipate to find a lot of students taller than me and with such a wide range of ability levels. We gave our first pre-assessment, which included one-to-one correspondence, number recognition, writing numbers, and early arithmetic abilities. After reviewing the initial assessments, we found some similar difficulties and decided to incorporate these concepts into our lesson for the next day.
I was in charge of planning and teaching the more advanced students in first grade. My group, 1B, consisted of 6 boys: Tommy, Janeal, Christopher, Messi, Rivaldo, and Clayton. These boys struggled with some subtraction problems on the pre-assessment, so i decided to focus on basic subtraction, then move on to more advanced-subtraction. When the boys arrived Thursday morning I quickly called out there names and headed to the nearby room. We began by playing iPad games that focused on subtraction as well as missing addenda and subtrahend a, but while watching the students I was surprised to not hear them, most of them kept to themselves, and see them fly through even the most difficult equations. When it was our turn to use the smart board my observations and assumptions proved to be accurate as the students breezed through the word problems and questions I presented on the board. After students left I felt awful, as if I had failed to challenge them and even possibly insulted their intellect. Later that day I wandered to watch the students play in the field and heard “Miss Frisbie!” being yelled as soon as I went near the bleachers. Messi came up to me and thanked me for teaching, telling me he had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I was so happy and relieved, and thought back to my lesson. The quick answers may not have been due to the simple questions. But instead excitement and willingness to listen and learn. I knew day 3 I must challenge these students and let them help make more decisions about concepts they want to learn.
Day 3 was amazing. It began with the boys and I working with multi-digit subtraction and regrouping. This was a more difficult concept for them to grasp, they were able to work through it with as a group and eventually individually. I then asked the boys what they wanted to work on and they were extremely excited, shouting out many topics including multiplication and fractions. We briefly covered each concept and it was so much fun seeing their faces light up as we worked through the problems. The “A-Ha!” moments, such as being able to use our understanding of multiplication and division to reduce fractions, were priceless. While working with the other groups, i was able to work one-on-one with many students which was such a great experiencce. i was able to get to know the members of my group as well as many other students, such as Tevin, Anthony, and Darnell, and their abilities, interests, and personalities. These boys are some if the kindest, silliest, and amazing individuals I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Many pictures were taken, hugs were given, and even a few tears were shed as we said our final goodbyes. It is too difficult to put into words how hard it is to leave the boys I had quickly, yet undoubtedly, grown attached to, not knowing when or if we’d see them again. The memories I have made at the Alpha Boys School will never be forgotten!
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to work with the Alpha Girls, I felt the love and appreciation while at the ending ceremony. It began with an informational video of the Alpha School, which included a loud roar of applause when their principal Mr. Sing made an appearance in the film. Many of the girls also preformed songs and dance, including a “task” where Katie, Isaac, Jenna, and Susan became the students and were taught some Jamaican dances by some of the girls. This may have been the highlight for the Alpha Girls, but my favorite part of the ceremony was when Mr. Mike Egan was asked to say a few words. While hearing him speak, both at the opening and closing ceremonies, you could hear how much this school means to him and how passionate he is about education. He spoke to the girls with such passion. He said that “no matter where you’re from, how much money your mother has, or your address you can become anything you want to be”. Mike said that all it takes is heart, determination, and hard work to be successful. I could not have asked to a better closing than my Professor leading the room in “One Love”.
It was an honor to be a part of such an inspiring experience. Even for such a short period of time I feel that I have grown more than I would have ever anticipated. The concepts I may have helped the students better understand do not compare to the love, acceptance, and appreciation shown by these boys. There will be many obstacles and challenges in life but you must overcome them and strive to be the best you can be, as exemplified in the Alpha Boys School motto “Onward and upward!”.

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