Dear Family, Friends and Followers of the Champions Program
People back home always talk about the island life. About how it is laid back, relaxing and chill. They tell me I am lucky to be on the beach relaxing, sipping the frozen drinks and listening to the reggae tunes. Well sorry to inform you that is not the case for us Champions. In complete honesty, I am living the true island life and it is infectious. There is something about Antigua that makes you feel at home. The people treat you like family and welcome you with open arms. Of course, the fact that this is the ninth year the Champions for Health Promoting Schools program has been on the island, they are well aware when we are on island and that we are here to fully immerse ourselves in their lifestyle and share our own as well. The month of May is a mutual growing process between us and the Antiguans and I believe most of it takes place between us and the children we teach.
Ciara Spink, Jennifer Gray and I were fortunate enough to be teaching at Jennings Primary School during our stay here on the island. Jennings is located in the “country side” as the say and has been a part of the Champions Program for 6 years now. Being surrounded by these children over the past month has truly been a life changing experience. They have this unexplainable ability to share their innocence with you while puling your inner child to the surface. Just yesterday, my teaching partner Ciara and Inderpreet Bring were teaching a grade two health lesson. We were discussing different ways of communicating, when we split the class into three groups to play a game of telephone. As I was sitting with my group, one of the students was balancing his chair on two legs while trying to play the game. I had already repeatedly told him to put all four legs on the floor because he may fall and of course that’s what happened. As he was passing the message to the next student, he fell right on his butt. All the students in my group looked at me waiting for me to get mad at him. Instead, I burst out laughing and they all joined in including the fallen boy. When I think back to that moment, I realized that the students had sucked me into their infectious innocence. They have taught me that, as a future teacher, I need to show them my inner child and let my true self shine bright. There is no hiding it or trying to keep it bottle up.
Today, our principal Mrs.Scottland asked if we’d meet with one of the teachers during our spare to talk about different ways they can handle unwanted behaviour from the kids at school. She wanted to know how Canadian teachers handle disciplinary situations and how we try to decrease them in the classroom. The education system on the island has started to implement the Child Friendly Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to provide a positive and safe learning environment for children, while keeping in mind what’s in the best interest for the child. Today, we got to collaborate with a kindergarten teacher on different ways they could work on positive reinforcement in the classroom to reward and encourage desirable behaviour. Seeing the teacher excitingly write down ways we reward our students in Canada with Star Charts, physical activity and verbal encouragement, I felt like I was making a difference within the school. I also know our TEP Teacher Mentor Jennifer Gray would be proud of us for sharing some class room management tips that she told us about earlier this month. Todays meeting made me feel great in knowing that I wasn’t only making an impact with the students, but as well as the teachers here at Jennings Primary School.
I would like to take the time to thank everyone for allowing me to come on this amazing adventure and experience the true island life. Thank you to all of you who donated and gave these kids the opportunity to keep their innocence shining bright and help me find mine again. I’d especially like to thank Club Kids for donating equipment and extra supplies. Lastly, I’d like to thank my family for giving me the freedom to chase my dreams and giving me the opportunity to seek out who I really am. I know after coming here that I truly love teaching, but even more so I love what teaching gives to me.