A Heartfelt Farewell by Samantha Byrne

21 05 2015

Well today marks the final day of teaching at each of our schools and as I sit here today I am puzzled with how fast the time has gone by. It has been a whirlwind of an experience from the moment we got here and I am sure it will continue until we all step onto our planes in less than  72 hours. Today was also a very emotional day for all of us because we had to say our final goodbyes to our schools that we have become so integrated within. Late last night we prepared for our goodbyes by separating all of wonderful equipment and school supply donations and packed bags to give to each of the schools. A special thank you goes out to each of our donors who were able to donate so many useful things that the schools here are so grateful to receive. We all go up bright and early and packed the van full of equipment and supplies but as we were driving it was hard to accept the fact that this was our last drive to Pigotts Primary School. When Kirsten and I arrived at school we kept looking at each other with glimpses of sadness, it was clear to see that we both did not want to leave our school. We presented our principal with all of the supplies and equipment and were able to tell her just how extraordinary our experience at her school was. We also told her how much we appreciated her for allowing us to become an integral part of their school. It was not odd to see Kirsten or I answer a ringing phone or even ring the school bell (an actual bell) on a daily basis. Since we arrived at school early we had the opportunity to talk with certain students and I think it finally started to hit them that we will not be coming back next week. One girl name Keniyah who spent a lot of time with us over the past weeks was clinging to both Kirsten and I all day with tears in her eyes begging us not to go. This was very difficult to see but Kirsten and I kept reminding everyone that next year a whole new group of Canadian Teachers will arrive and have even more fun games and ideas to teach them.

We started the day with a grade six physical education class and they were so excited that we were finally allowing them to play with the footballs (soccer balls). Mrs. Shaw, our schools physical education specialist, joined in and had a blast since football is one of her specialties. After break we took the grade two’s for both a physical education and a health class. We finally taught our grade two’s “Chuck the Chicken”, which became an instant favourite among the students. We took the students back their classroom to have a discussion about all of the skills they have learned over the 4 weeks and it felt amazing to hear them shout our words such as “patience”, “teamwork” and “respect”. Kirsten and I were so impressed with their responses that we thought it would be fun to teach them how to play silent ball. Their teacher must have been impressed because soon after the class she asked us where she can find more games like the ones we play. Kirsten and I both smiled at each other and told her that after today we were leaving our giant binder of lessons with their school and that she could flip through it anytime she would like.

At lunch it was so difficult to leave all of the students playing outside to go eat but we knew that as always there was a delicious school lunch awaiting us. Here in Antigua there is school lunch program that provides students with a nutritious lunch that is very affordable for the students. After we quickly ate our lunches we handed out equipment to the students for them to play with. It was amazing to look out and see all of the students getting along with each other and actually sharing the equipment, this is an astonishing improvement from the first day we brought it out. I spent the rest of my lunch time in a very small grade five class where I chatted and took selfies with a group of grade five girls who I have become very close with over the time here. One girl in particular named Aaliyah became very close to me, she even gave me an extremely heartfelt letter that I couldn’t read until after I left their school that day. By this time in the day it was very hard knowing that in only a few short hours we were going home.

After lunch we had a spare but since we were not able to teach P.E. to the grade five class yesterday we were able to come into their class and do some in class activities to give them a bit of brain break from their studies. It must have been that it was their last day because I have never seen this class behave in the good manner that they were today. As we came out of this class we were informed that there was actually going to be an early dismissal today which confused me because this was the first I had heard of it. Little did Kirsten and I know that there was actually a secret plan to hold an farewell assembly for us. It was amazing to see the whole school get together and sing us a good bye song. Also, a student from each grade came up in front of their whole school and told us how much being there had meant to them. After the assembly was dismissed we were showered by hugs from mostly all of the students in the school. There were multiple students crying including Miss Lee (Kirsten) and overall it was a very emotional time for everyone involved. To see the impact that Kirsten and I have had on so many students over the past months was so inspirational to see. These students also do not forget as they are constantly asking where is Mr. Hardington  (who came with us for the first two weeks) and when are Miss Mckeddie and Miss Atkinson coming back (the champions that came to their school last year).

Overall, this experience has completely impacted me and has given me the confidence that I have needed to become a teacher when I get back home. A special thank you to Mitch Hardington for really pushing me out of my comfort zone as a teacher. In addition to helping me find my teacher face which came in handy after you left. Also, appreciation goes out to my wonderful teaching partner and now good friend Kirsten Lee for always being there for me. This is especially helpful when it comes to reining in a group of rowdy kindergarteners with her charismatic voice. Finally I would like to thank my friends and family for all of the support I received leading up to the trip, without you I would not have been able to make it to the place where I am today.

See you all soon,
Samantha Byrne
Pigotts Primary


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21 05 2015
Laura Wegener

Sam!! This was so great to read!:) I am so excited for you and can feel the emotion that you must feel having to leave the school. You will never forget this experience! I am glad it has impacted you as much as it impacted me. Enjoy your last days there, see you when you’re back!
(Hey Jo!:))

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