Dear Champions Alumni, Family, Friends, and all Followers of the Champion’s Program.
My name is Kara Williams (the one in the middle) and I am proud to call myself a first year Champion of the 2019 program. First and foremost, I would like to send out a big “thank you” to everyone that has supported this program and to everyone that has supported me throughout my journey so far. I would also like to send a very special “thank you” to Dr. Joanna Sheppard for providing me with the opportunity of a lifetime where I can grow both as a teacher and as a human being.
For this experience I have been lucky enough to be placed in the only All Girls High School on the island. This is the first year that Champions have been placed at a high school for the entire duration of our stay here in Antigua, and it has been an amazing experience thus far. In my studies back in Canada I am currently working towards becoming a secondary school teacher, and I really believe that this placing will be the best opportunity for myself to grow by presenting these life skills to an older audience. The students that attend this school are young women with such big personalities and dreams, and it has been eye opening learning about the Antiguan culture through their eyes.
The lead up to the first day of school was a nerve-racking time. Full of so many different emotions I found it difficult to focus on one for too long. I was feeling uneasy as we prepared the night before and on the car ride to school that first day, but the confidence my teaching partners had really helped me believe in what we could do here. Working with Cassidy (a second year Champion), and Emily (a returning TEP form UBC) has been an amazing learning experience. I am learning so much from the knowledge that they share, the advice they give, and the innovative ideas that they use to extend and better my lesson plans. On that first day of school we attended the Monday assembly and seeing every single student in that school standing under the same roof and to know that we would be integrating into their lives and studies for the next month, although intimidating, made an immediate impact on me as it displayed how real this experience truly is. The excitement those students showed us on that first day really got all three of us excited to work with these young ladies.
Being stationed in the high school, our day ends quite earlier than the primary schools, but not to worry we are kept busy as we whip off to Villa Primary school to support our fellow Champions there. Having the opportunity to learn from second year Champion Selyen and fellow first year Champion Chelsea has been so wonderful as well. Watching these Champions interact with the younger children and integrating into these classes ourselves has been beneficial in preparation for Unity Games on Friday. The contrast we get to see between the high school students and the primary students every day has been another experience all on its own. The high school ladies, although interested and welcoming of us seem to be quite more reserved. Aside from the form one students (equivalent to grade seven back home), who are more inclined to approach us, more times than not we find ourselves reaching out in order to form those connections. This is completely opposite to the young students of Villa who immediately ran up to us on day one, reaching for our hands and wrapping their arms around our waists for hugs. The love that these students show is so powerful and raw, unlike anything I have ever been a part of back in Canada. Having the opportunity to be involved in both environments has been something I will not take for granted. I feel like I am really getting the full experience and have now so many more ways I can grow while working with ad learning from all ages.
Teaching itself has been full of ups and downs where we have had to do lots of last minute planning, changing and adjusting plans as we go. In the high school, there is a lot of stress on exams and meticulously following the curriculum and more times than one so far this week we have found ourselves prepared to teach a lesson, arriving at school and having to adjust and tweak our lessons to cater specific sports such as basketball and soccer (or football as they call it down here on the island). Although this has really been pushing us to get creative with the lesson plans while still fitting them to our life skill, we have been very successful so far. On day two we even had to create a lesson plan for the physical education theory class about sport injury and prevention. With very limited time, we were able to put together a lesson and tie everything together with a life skill which is what the Champion’s For Health program is all about.
Growing up I have always been a big planner, and I have always found it difficult to accept changes to the plans I make and to adjust to the unexpected. This aspect of myself has been something that I have really been trying to work on and it has been a goal of mine to learn how to be ok with such changes. So this experience thus far, with last minute changes of lesson plans and basically having to roll with the punches has been both extremely challenging and so rewarding. To be a part of what happens behind the scenes in creating the lesson plans, and then watching them come to life through the students right in front of our eyes has been so rewarding and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
As a closing I would like to share with you all a quote that was read out by one of the students on stage during Monday morning’s assembly. The student cited
“Life is like a camera. Focus on the important things, capture the moment, and develop the negatives. And if things don’t work out, take another shot.”
To me this quote describes the art of teaching so perfectly and moving forward I would like to make this sort of my own personal motto for my experience in the Champion’s for Health 2019 program. Through this program I will strive to be really intentional in the following: to focus on the things that are important, such as my own personal growth as an educator, and the connections with my students and teammates that come every day and will only get deeper and deeper as the month goes on. To capture every single moment with the students and with my peers, no matter how small. It could be a single smile one day and I want to make an effort to remember it forever. However, I know that things won’t always go right and that mistakes will happen and sometimes plans just don’t work out. This is bound to happen. But the only way to really grow is to take these mistakes and learn from them. So moving forward I want to really try and accept and develop those negatives, understand why something didn’t work, take another shot and turn these missteps into positive learning opportunities.
Although I am beginning to feel more comfortable as time goes on, and I am feeling more confident with my teaching abilities, I still woke up on Day 3 with butterflies. I don’t think that that will ever go away for the duration of this experience because you never know what to expect, but I am so excited to see what happens next.