Archive for the ‘Stage 10: Discovering the Boon’ Category

All American children learn the phrase,” Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in fourteen hundred ninety two.” But little do many Americans realize how many other bodies of land Columbus discovered including many of the Caribbean islands such as Cuba and Jamaica. In fact, when you visit Discovery Bay, the place where Columbus landed in Jamaica, you are told the story that upon settling in Jamaica Columbus stated that, “This was the most beautiful land that eye could behold.” As I’ve learned more about Columbus and his place in Jamaican history through observing several of the student teachers lessons on Jamaican history, I’ve come to appreciate the man who set out for India and found himself in the Americas and then in the Caribbean. Columbus himself said, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” He may have thought that his destination was India but many of us are thankful that the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria landed in America and the Caribbean.

I love the following quote that each of us can relate to when we are on our own discoveries to ‘find our continent’. “Every one of us has in him a continent of undiscovered character. Blessed is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul. “ ~Author Unknown

But perhaps Marcel Proust said it best when referring to Columbus’ voyages, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” That’s what I seek, daily…new eyes to see what God would have me see, even in the everyday and ordinary.


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“The language of sign is not to be learned from books. It must be learned from the living, looking, acting model.” Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet

In the history of deaf education in American there is a fascinating period when most, if not perhaps all, of the people living in Martha’s Vineyard, signed. History tells us that in the late 1600s a group of Englanders that were deaf landed in Cape Cod, later moved to Martha’s Vineyard and the hearing people that also settled there quickly picked up on sign language so that they could communicate with their neighbors. People tended to stay in the community in which they were raised and marry within that community so genetic deafness flourished for many years. In fact the community was so isolated that people rarely moved off of the island until the early 20th century. Some early Vineyard settlers carried a gene for deafness (the first known deaf was Jonathan Lambert, 1694), and over years of marriage, generation after generation was born with hearing loss. At one point, one in four children were born deaf! There were so many deaf people on the Vineyard (most deaf lived in Chilmark) that residents developed a sign language, Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL). MVSL later merged with mainland signs to form American Sign Language.

In Jamaica there are three types of sign language that deaf people use to communicate: American Sign Language, Jamaican Sign Language or Signed English. Many deaf Jamaicans use a combination of the three dependent on where they went to school. For instance, Jamaicans in Kingston are more apt to use JSL than Jamaicans living in other parts of the island.

I recently found out that there is a small town in Jamaica, the town where Maranatha Christian School for the Deaf is located, that is much like Martha’s Vineyard was in America in the 1700s. For years people living in this small community in St. Elisabeth, Jamaica used a village sign language known locally as ‘Country Sign’. Signing among this village population was first mentioned by Dolman (1986), where the author reported a very high number of deaf individuals. The sign language has since been in sharp decline due to people moving away from the village on the one hand, and deaf education being introduced into the village on the other hand. The local deaf school (Maranatha) uses Jamaican Sign Language, the dominant urban sign language that is strongly influenced by American Sign Language. Therefore, young deaf people from the village no longer use Country Sign amongst each other, preferring to use Jamaican Sign Language, and indeed, most young people only know bits and pieces of Country Sign now. It is currently not clear whether there are any monolingual users of Country Sign left, and how many people, in particular older deaf people, who are still fluent users of Country Sign in addition to being fluent in Jamaican Sign Language. The community is Top Hill and I’ve read everything I can find on this unique community. I’ve not yet visited Top Hill but it is quickly moving to the top of my list of things to do and see on the island.

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“Down the way where the nights are gay, and the sun shines daily on the mountain top, I took a trip on a sailing ship and when I reached Jamaica I made a stop!”  So goes the old Jimmy Buffett song and how apt it is to my experiences in Montego Bay.

There is many a night that I go to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 pm to the sounds of reggae and dance hall music drifting to my condo from the street below. It is not unusual to be awakened at 3:30 or 4:00 am to that same music, the party still going on. The nights are definitely ‘gay’ on the hip strip.

Every day, and I mean EVERY day I have awoken to bright sunny blue skies over the Caribbean Sea outside my front porch and the Jamaican hills outside my back door. There have been a few occasional bursts of rain but only one storm that sent me inside. The rest were truly ‘liquid sunshine’ as the raindrops fell from a smattering of clouds in a otherwise sunny sky. Do I tire of the sunshine and ‘gay’ nights—NEVER! I love hearing reggae music blaring from the cars going down my street and the bars and restaurants that line the hip strip. The beat is tantalizing and the words understandable, not over powered by an excess of instruments. Every day I spend the last hour or two of my day before dinner enjoying the sunshine and cool breezes that come off the sea every afternoon. I will NEVER tire of slipping on my swimming suit and cover-up, heading over to the pool with a good book and a bottle of water and reading a chapter or two before I drift off into nap-land for an hour or so—pure heaven!

I’ve met many Jamaicans who grew up on the island, moved to America, Canada or England to make their living, but then moved back to the island in their retirement years. After all, they tell me, it is home. And in a great sense, it is home to me as well.

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“Di reggae beat originally come from di Africans we se’em weh—African music—and from African scattered abroad. So it come as a kinda rebellion.” The Wailers

Wa mek reggae music di bess?
(Why is reggae music the best?)

“One ting ‘bout music is dat when it hits, yu feel no pain.” Bob Marley and the Wailers

Yeh, mon, a True. Mi can see dat. It all about di feel and di vibration. Right?
(Yes, that is right. I can see that. It is all about the feel and vibration. Right?)

Wa mek di real Reggae inspiration?
(What makes the real Reggae inspiration?)

Lissen wa di big mon a seh.
(Listen to what Bob Marley says.)

“Well, our music has always been music inspired by what we believe in, what we know, and that is happening, which we experience everything. Reggae music is news. Is news about yu own self, yu own history, tings dat you wudd’n really—dem wuddn teach it to you inna school, yu understand? Becaa dem wuddn tll yu dat Rastafari is God! Yu na’ mean? And yet di bible tell you dat with in 2000 years Christ shall return and when ‘im return ‘im gwann be King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Conquering Lion in the Tribe of Judah. Chruu di line is a King Solomon and King David. Now dat is the reality.” Bob Marley

The Rastafarian religion has roots in the Bible, juxtaposed with history from ancient Ethiopia and Egypt. It begins with God’s covenant from Abraham and the twelve tribes of Israel and then focuses on where Rastas believe the black race began (Noah’s son’s Shem and Ham and/or Joseph marrying a black women begetting Ephraim and Manasseh). Rastas base their religion on their reading of the Bible that Christ promised that he would return within 2000 years and actually returned as Emperor Haile Selassie-I of Ethiopia. Rastas believe Selassie-I is a direct descendent of both King David and Christ. Many important historical Jamaicans including Marcus Garvey and Preacher Leonard P. Howell organized the masses and began the Rasta movement. Important aspects of the Rasta movement are wearing dreadlocks (“His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. Song of Solomon 5:11), Ganja (the Holy Herb and Weed of Wisdom), drumming and chanting, and avoiding meat.

I hope to visit a Rasta village before I leave the island of Jamaica in May. It is such an important part of the fabric of the island that I want to experience it.

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Jamaica may be a developing country but the teacher education program that I’m involved with and those that I’ve heard about through other Americans teaching in Jamaica are anything but developing. I’m more than a bit surprised at both the depth and breadth of the special education program at Sam Sharpe; in fact the three year deaf education diploma program earned at Sam Sharpe is very comparable to the deaf education masters degree program that I went through at the University of Arizona including similar courses, a heavy workload and a comparable practicum.

Every week each student receives an evaluative visit from one of the special education lecturers. Next week each student teacher at Sam Sharpe will go through their external evaluations. So for the last two weeks each student teacher at the college has been observed by teams of two Sam Sharpe lecturers, the first visit being formative and meant to point out EVERY area that needs improvement; the second hopefully showing them areas of major improvement and meant to prepare them for next week, their externals.

Two educators from the Jamaican department of education and one or two lecturers from Sam Sharpe will again visit and evaluate each student teacher and then compare their evaluations. The kicker is that this averaged score counts for 40% of their student teaching grade. So much is riding on this visit that our team of special education lecturers spent all day today preparing our student teachers for next week. One student who is doing exceptionally well did a lesson for her fellow future teachers and then evaluated her strengths, weaknesses and next steps to take with her students, just as she has for her last two evaluations and as she will for her evaluation next week. She was gutsy because then her classmates had the chance to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses as well. She took it so well and learned even more about her teaching style and ways to continue to improve as a teacher.

Finally students had a chance to meet with any of the lecturers and ask for assistance in developing their lesson plans for next week, get ideas for their final integrated project, or get support in any other areas of concern. Each student took the day very seriously and made the most of our time together. At 4:30 students were still availing themselves of the professors in the room. My role came to be providing integrative ideas for the students’ projects, which tied in so well with my background in arts integration, elementary education and special education. Each student was so appreciative for any ideas that were offered and took copious notes during our conferencing. At one point there were five students waiting to sit on ”the hot seat” as I called it and get my advice. It was humbling to think that they wanted my opinions and ideas and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of them more deeply.

Next week will be interesting as we form teams with the external evaluators and seek to come to consensus on each student’s final score. I will definitely be in prayer for each Sam Sharpe student before, during and after our time together.

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You never know who you’re going to meet in Montego Bay. I’ve met people from Ireland, England, China, India and people from all over Canada. But yesterday I met not one but two fellow education professors from the United States. Karen, the education professor from Miami Univerity spent spring break at a poor rural school with twenty-five students from her college and they ended their week with a few days in Montego Bay, enjoying the sights and the sun. The professor from Ohio, Vicki, has a partnership whereby Jamaican teachers take three years of coursework in Jamaican colleges and then her college accepts those credits towards their education degree from her college. Education professors from the college then come to the island for two week periods and teach intense 45 hour classes, helping the Jamaican teachers earn a bachelor’s degree from her college within two years.

Last night we decided to go out for dinner together and discuss our own unique reasons for teaching in Jamaica. It was fascinating to share our stories and the paths that led each of us to this beautiful island. It was wonderful to talk to fellow Americans, and especially American professors of education as we all speak the same language. There is no doubt that we will stay in touch and hopefully even be able to support each other in our own work in Jamaica. The conversation was great even though the food was only mediocre- oh well; our time together was definitely worth it.

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I wake up to a view of the turquoise blue Caribbean and end my day by watching the sun set over this same beautiful sea. I’ve loved lakes and oceans my entire life and have thought that perhaps living on the Caribbean is helping me thoroughly enjoy my time in Jamaica and not become very homesick. I absolutely LOVE the Caribbean Sea! I decided to research what God has to say about the sea and chose some of my favorite verses to share. It is evident that God not only made the sea; He made the sea for his pleasure as well as for our pleasure…the sea and everything in it. Which reminds me that Wednesday is dive day #2 and a chance for me to see and experience many of God’s wonders that live in the sea. I can hardly wait!

Genesis 1:10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Matthew 8:27 But the men marveled, saying, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

Psalms 95:5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.

Acts 14:15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Genesis 1:20-22 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

Psalms 24:2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

Isaiah 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

Psalms 135:6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

Job 11:9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.

Ecclesiastes 1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

Psalms 107:24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.

Psalms 77:19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.

Psalms 69:34 Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein.

Psalms 93:4 The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

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