Archive for February, 2011

2 Corinthians 3:17-19 (New International Version)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Learning requires a challenge to the familiar and a requirement to “fear not” and to be willing to embrace freedom and transformation. We are all looking for the next treasure and for what we cannot NOT do with our life. Have I found it here in my work in Jamaica? Well, surprisingly, I feel remarkably at home and at peace with where the Lord has me for this season. I may not be accomplishing all of the goals I originally set out for myself but am certainly learning about and working on HIS goals for me. I find I am following a mysterious rhythm of leading that will hopefully reveal purpose and meaning, and perhaps even, destiny.

I am beginning to uncover patterns to my work and clarity to my calling and am becoming as John Ortberg says, “a flourishing self.” How this will change who I am and how I live my life back home remains to be seen. I only know now that it is like looking at the underside of a quilt (and being a quilter, I know a lot about the undersides of quilts). There are many shapes colors, and threads and I can even make out some beautiful patterns, but I know that the topside is beautiful and I only hope to one day catch a glimpse of it and maybe even have it be a part of my life.

Ephesians 2:10 (New International Version)
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God loves me and created me to do HIS good works, not my own. As I learn to lay myself down daily in service to the students and lecturers that surround me I am finding true joy in my work and life. I’m not tying to please anyone, prove anything to anyone or gain any fame or fortune. I’m just living my life daily in obedience as best I can to a God who prepared in advance this work for me to do.

What a blessing!


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On Monday Americans celebrated President’s Day with a day off of school, closed banks and no postal service. Of course, here in Jamaican Monday was just like any other day but it caused me to notice who Jamaican children celebrate as their national heroes. At one school there were paintings of Jamaican heroes on the outside of their building. In another school a lesson on money led me to look at the faces on the $50J, $100J, $500J and $1000J that I had in my wallet. And in still another school children were singing a song celebrating one of their countries heroes. So who are these men and women that have shaped the past and future of Jamaica?

Let’s start with Nanny of the Maroons. Nanny was born around 1686 in Ghana, Western Africa, into the Ashanti tribe, and was brought to Jamaica as a slave. It is believed that some of her family members were involved in intertribal conflict and her village was captured. Nanny and several relatives were sold as slaves and sent to Jamaica. Upon arrival in Jamaica, Nanny was likely sold to a plantation in. Such plantations grew sugarcane as the main crop, and the slaves toiled under extremely harsh conditions.

As a child, other slave leaders and maroons influenced Nanny. She and her brothers ran away from their plantation and hid in the Blue Mountains area of northern Saint Thomas Parish. While in hiding, they split up to organize more Maroon communities across Jamaica. Nanny and her brothers became folk heroes.

By 1720, Nanny and Quao, her brother, had settled and controlled an area in the Blue Mountains. It was given the name Nanny Town, and consisted of the 500 acres of land granted to the runaway slaves. Nanny was very adept at organizing plans to free slaves. For over 30 years, Nanny freed more than 800 slaves, and helped them to resettle in the Maroon community.

Paul Bogle was a Jamaican Baptist deacon and is a National Hero of Jamaica. He was a leader of the 1865 Morant Bay Emancipation Movement, which fought for the freedom of the people from slavery during British rule. He led the Morant Bay rebellion. He was captured and hanged on October 24,1865 in the Morant Bay Court House and executed by the United Kingdom. He is depicted on the heads side of the Jamaican 10 cent coin and two dollar bill. The Paul Bogle High School in the parish of his birth is named after him.

Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL)

Prior to the twentieth century, leaders such as Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and Henry Highland Garnet advocated the involvement of the African diaspora in African affairs. Garvey was unique in advancing a Pan-African philosophy that inspired global mass movement and economic empowerment focusing on Africa known as Garveyism. Promoted by the UNIA as a movement of African Redemption, Garveyism would eventually inspire others, ranging from the Nation of Islam to the Rastafari movement (which proclaims Garvey as a prophet). The intent of the movement was for those of African ancestry to “redeem” Africa and for the European colonial powers to leave it. His essential ideas about Africa were stated in an editorial in the Negro World titled “African Fundamentalism” where he wrote:
“Our union must know no clime, boundary, or nationality… let us hold together under all climes and in every country.”

Sir Alexander Bustamante was a Jamaican politician and labor leader. Though initially a supporter, he came to be an opponent of the Federation of the West Indies and agitated for Jamaica to become an independent state. It was Bustamante’s decision that the JLP (Jamaican Labor Party) would not contest a by-election to the federal parliament that resulted in his rival and cousin, Premier Norman Manley, calling the referendum in 1961 that led to Jamaica’s withdrawal and the break-up of the Federation.

Jamaica was granted independence in 1962 and Bustamante served as the independent country’s first Prime Minister until 1967. However, in 1965 he withdrew from active participation in public life, and real power was held by his deputy, Donald Sangster (who Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is named after).

In 1969, Bustamante was proclaimed a ‘National Hero of Jamaica’, along with Norman Manley, the black liberationist, Marcus Garvey and two leaders of the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon.  Bustamante died in 1977 and was buried in the National Heroes Park in Kingston.

And of course there is Sam Sharpe, already mentioned in a past blog and the hero that Sam Sharpe College is named after. All of these people are true Jamaican heroes and have led Jamaica to becoming the free and independent nation that it is today, run by Jamaicans rather than the original English and Spanish plantation owners that controlled it for so many years.

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For the next two weeks student teachers from Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College will each be receiving two visits from teams of two special education lecturers from Sam Sharpe. The first visit is formative, meant to point out several areas in need of improvement and start a conversation where the student reflects honesty on their strengths, weaknesses and changes they should make. Then visit number two is meant to see if the student has in fact taken the suggestions and conversation from week one to heart; the goal is improvement and increased self-confidence. All this is done because shortly after these two visits, external evaluators (lecturers from universities and government officials from the department of education) will make a third visit to each student teacher and this visit will carry much weight as to whether or not that student successfully completes their education program at Sam Sharpe and receives their diploma. So MUCH is riding on these visits and emotions run high.

Today we began our visits and visited two schools, one, Catherine Hall, a primary school with a special education wing for students with mild to moderate disabilities and the second, Lucea Learning Center, a special school teaching students with moderate to severe disabilities. As a team, we visited two classrooms at each school and I was so impressed with the willingness of each student teacher to take the suggestions, criticisms and honest evaluations of their teaching. Each is eager to improve and become the best teacher they can be.

Catherine Hall Primary Center

Lucea Learning Center

Each lecturer fills out their own evaluation on the student teacher and then we compare notes after conversing with the student. My first evaluation was not even in the ballpark in relation to the other two lecturers evaluations- it was much too high. Once I had an understanding of the process my next three evaluations were exactly in line with the other lecturers and I felt much better about the process.

This process will continue every day this week and several days next week. It is exhausting to say the least and I will be glad when this work is done and I can go back to a regular teaching schedule. But more than the toll it is taking on my fellow lecturers and me is the incredible stress that each student teacher is dealing with- and each is dealing with it with poise and strength of character. What an amazing group of students!

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One thing that I can count on every day except Sunday is seeing Hazel and her large basket of fruits and vegetables at the base of the winding staircase that takes me from the second floor of the Montego Bay Club to the street level or the hip strip. Like clockwork she shows up with her fresh produce and by the end of the day her large basket is relatively empty.

I’ve come to rely on being able to get fresh fruit and vegetables every two days or so which is wonderful because then nothing spoils. One day I might purchase two bananas and a tangerine and the next a pineapple (cut by Loretta and ready to eat) and an orange. Today I purchased not only several pieces of fruit but also fresh lettuce and tomatoes for a salad tomorrow. Am I spoiled? Yes!

Part of the fun of buying my produce from Loretta is that I meet people from around the world who are staying either in El Greco, The Montego Bay Club, Court Manor or one of the other nearby hotels. Today I met a couple from Italy who were struggling with the currency exchange…from Euro to US to Jamaican. I finally offered to pay the difference in American cash since Loretta was having a difficult time communicating with them. Monday I may again meet again one of the many Canadian couples that I meet daily around the pool and Tuesday it may be a family from England. Oh the joys of living in Montego Bay!

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I know that I am not only on an adventure, but on a quest…a quest to both do the work I am called to do in Jamaica but to also to become the person I am meant to be by participating in this incredible experience. I am finding that it is often after the fact, during times of quiet and reflection that this experience speaks to me in a way that is understandable, in a way that allows me to see that both life in general and my life in particular makes sense and has meaning.

One great gift that I have been uncovering is the gift of hope…hope that I will return home not necessarily different but stronger, more empathetic, more passionate and happier with my life in Chicago. As Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in his poem Prometheus Unbound:
…to hope, till Hope creates
…the thing it contemplates

But perhaps, most importantly, I will bring a piece of Jamaica home with me; some of its values, beauty, people and culture. I will bring home an appreciation of the Christian tradition so evident in Jamaica. And of course I will bring home several artifacts/souvenirs from the straw market and the hip strip.

And today I got the first true sense that I will actually be able to work with several of the student teachers on service-learning projects, the reason I embarked on this journey in the first place. Each year 3 student teacher must complete a project as a part of their student teaching experience so during an in-service time today I shared with them how to incorporate service-learning into that project and I believe that several students will take me up on my offer to help them do just that. This is the work that I am called to do but is also the passion that has brought me to this place at this time in my life. I am so excited about the possibilities!

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I am living in a paradise and from time to time need to take the time to enjoy this fabulous experience that has been given me. I need to take the time to pause, reflect on where I have been and where I am going, taking time out of my busy schedule to enjoy the ride.

Most days Montego Bay feels just like home to me. Though I know when at Sam Sharpe I am the only white person, it just doesn’t matter. In fact today I had a very interesting conversation with a fellow lecturer and she was sharing how much a friend of her that was Dutch was like Jamaicans. I told her that I too was Dutch and she exclaimed, “Well that explains it…that’s why you fit in so well.” I don’t really understand it but I can accept it, though it does perplex me a bit.

Walking down the ‘hip strip’ to pick up groceries or go to the beach, or maybe even when I splurge and eat at one of the many restaurants, I’m beginning to be recognized by both shopkeepers and the guys that work the beach. I woman that sells fruit at the bottom of my staircase now knows that I like bananas and tangerines and Debbie, my manicurist always stops to say hi. Every time I am recognized I think, “How cool is this that I’m beginning to know not only the people at CCCD but other Jamaicans as well.”

But I’m also poignantly aware of the fact that I have not made as much progress in promoting service-learning at Sam Sharpe as I hoped I would have by now. I wanted student teachers to be working on service-learning projects in their schools and communities and fellow lecturers to embrace service-learning pedagogy, and that has not happened; but not for a lack of trying. But then, just perhaps, this semester is not really about service-learning at Sam Sharpe at all. Perhaps it is more about MY service-learning experience and what I am learning about who I am and how I operate in this world. My experiences and subsequent reflections via this blog are clarifying and making real this journey; and that may be the greatest gift of all!

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“What comfort true mentors and guardians bring to the hero who discovers that on this otherwise solitary path they are not alone!’ (from The Hero’s Journey by Linda Chisholm)  Three special women from Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College have stood ready and willing to guide me through the maze that is Sam Sharpe. From week to week classes may meet in different rooms, even different buildings and different times. Without their help I would never be in the right classroom at the right time!

Having three special education colleagues like Sharon, Keitha and Denise has been more than a blessing, they are truly a gift. My openness with them and they, in turn with me, has been a source of both support and encouragement. They always have the time to answer any question I may have and are more than willing to share their classrooms and students with me. Perhaps they realize that I am coming in as a learner and am open to experiencing anything and everything I can and am also willing to share any knowledge I may have with them.

Mrs. Sharon Anderson-Morgan

Mrs. Keitha Osborne

Mrs. Denise Bramwell

My job is to pay attention, soak up as many experiences as I can, and contribute in any way that is possible. Because of this openness I have had the opportunity to guest lecture, co-teach, observe student teachers, and teach service-learning classes to year 1, year2 and year 3 special education majors. I also hope to speak to several service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Club within the next few weeks in an effort to find several service-learning partners for Sam Sharpe. Today I had the chance to observe year 1 elementary education majors working on education charts for their future classrooms and year 2 mild disabilities majors present to the rest of their year 2 classmates the key points on identifying and working with these special students. What rich experiences!

The most amazing thing to me is that the special education program, the terminology used in the classrooms and the way the students are taught to write lesson plans, reflect on those lessons and incorporate standards into their lesson plans is so much like the way we teach our education majors at Trinity. This is a surprise I was NOT expecting, but a very pleasant surprise. Sharon, Keitha, Denise and I are much more alike than we are different…perhaps the world really is flat.

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