Jamaica: Class Week 1

What a day! Day 1 was quite exhausting. We had almost 70 students from about 20 different schools show up today. About 8 students whom we recruited from Mona HS and Jamaica College arrived on their own around 9:30. At 10:15 our first wave of Teach the Youth students arrived from High Light View. We combined them with the Mona/JC students and Lucy began her water class by 10:30. At 10:45 the next group of students arrived from Kintyn and Tavern. This second group of 20 students went straight to their energy class with Dennis. Finally around 11:15 the third group of students arrived from August Town. I took them straight to a third classroom and began teaching. Lunch, which was supposed to arrive by 11:30, was not delivered until almost 1:00pm; almost a full hour after Lucy and Dennis completed their lessons. This created a bit of chaos as many of the students decided to wander around the university on their own.

Eventually order was restored and the second class of the afternoon went without incident.

Everyday has its own set of challenges. By setting a daily goal of addressing the previous day’s challenges, we can go a long way towards achieving out ultimate goal of progress. The challenges of Monday were averted through two major logistical changes.

First we moved from the newer block of air-conditioned classrooms to the older wing of engineering classrooms adjacent to the courtyard. While these rooms were far less comfortable, they were located at the end of a long hallway thin hallway with 4 classrooms at the end. Moving here allowed us to better control the movement of the students, since there was only one entrance/exit, and meant that the noise generated from the students excitement would not disturb University students and professors.

Second, we decided that students should remain in the same classroom throughout the day. Moving 60 students through a University all at once can be a major distraction to those working. As a result we decided it would be best to keep students in their classrooms and have the instructors rotate from location to location.

Instructors wrapped up class at 11:30 as planned and awaited the lunch delivery. By 12:30 the students began to get restless. By 12:45 we could no longer keep the student contained in their classrooms. By 1:15 we received some very alarming news: “Student lunches were delivered to one of the community centers. New lunches would need to be prepared.”

Angry does not begin to describe my mood. We lost an entire afternoon of classes because of poor communication within our partners support network. Lunch was delivered at 2:30 and students were ushered into the bus to take them home.
Wednesday was a relatively good day. The students were dropped off on time. The first class went without incident, and lunch was delivered on time. After lunch however things got a bit chaotic. Only 15 minutes into class 2 a student burst into my classroom screaming for help. I darted into the hallway to see students yelling and moving out of the energy classroom. When I entered I found a female student tussling on the floor with a male student surrounded by 3-4 tipped over desks.

It took almost 15 minutes to remove the students from the building and send them home. By the time order was restored almost half of the class time had been wasted for two of the three sections because of the disturbance. The afternoon staff meeting would focus on better classroom management and all would pledge to do a better job of preventing issues before they arise. And if issues do arise, they should be dealt with before they escalade into an incident.

By Thursday we had finally caught stride. Lunch was late again, but what’s new. Classes went on without incident.

It was decided that there would be no Friday class. The Student Union would not be providing lunch or transportation to students on Fridays. Given the issues that we faced in week one, many of which were not outlined in the posts above, we did not put up much of a fight about taking a break to regroup and focus our efforts on making week 2 successful.

Lucy and Chelsey walked to campus as usual on Friday. The afternoon was spent organizing materials for the next week, completing documentation of the curriculum, and communicating with new teachers for week 2.

The Weekend
The weekend was quiet. Lucy left for Arkansas about 3am Saturday morning and Ken arrived Sunday afternoon. Saturday was spent relaxing, and Sunday was spent reintroducing Ken to Jamaican life.

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