Herding Cats

Yesterday a group of 3rd graders came to the Guidance Office proclaiming there were kids in the classroom standing on desks and misbehaving. I asked them where their teacher was and they said she left. They said she had put their assignment up on the board and told them she had to leave, and would not be back.

I left the office, with a throng of 3rd graders cheering me in my wake, and walked in to what is so typical of Jamaican classrooms – chaos. Kids were yelling, running, hitting each other and only a handful were doing their work. I approached the front of the classroom and with a loud voice (for me) told them to “Listen Up!” Surprisingly, the chatter was reduced to a low hum and I asked who could tell me what the teacher had instructed them to do. A girl sitting in the front of the room shot up her hand and repeated what the others had told me earlier. I then asked how many had started the assignment and almost everyone raised their hand. [I doubted the truthfulness of this.] I went on to tell them they needed to do their work and I would be available to help them if they needed help. I went back to my office as I am not a “Substitute Teacher, rather I work in the Guidance Office.

A few minutes later 7-8 kids came down to my office and said they had finished their work and asked if they could sit in the Guidance Office because their classroom was still noisy. I told them they could. Before I knew it, I had 15 kids buzzing around the Guidance Office [which is the size of a very small bedroom.] Many of them asked permission to read some of the pamphlets that were on the table. I told them they could. I should have known that pamphlets called, “My Body and Me” were going to garner a lot of discussion! For the most part, when they asked questions, I just told them that, “It was part of human nature and they’d learn more about it when they got older!”

This beehive-like activity continued until it was clear I had lost all control of the office. I found myself making imaginary lines they were not to cross and putting a capacity limit on the office. I told them only 6 kids at a time could be in the office. After saying that, it was like a game of “Musical Chairs” had broken out as all of the kids clamored for a seat in the office! There were kids [boys] going under the desk, behind the file cabinet, and under the day bed. This activity kept up until I hollered, “Who in here is a leader?” Several hands shot up so I pointed to one girl and said, “Okay, you’re a leader so you need to set an example for the others and leave the office.” To this she replied, “Miss, I’m not a leader, I’m a follower!”

All the while this was going on I kept checking my watch because I knew, at some point, they had to go back to their class to be dismissed for the day.

I expanded my office capacity limit to 8 because I couldn’t get the boys out from under the day bed. Children were standing outside the Guidance Office while I stood planted in the doorway. When they asked why they couldn’t come in, I told them the office was for kids with problems or for kids who are injured. I know, I set myself up for this one. “Miss, I have problems!” said one little girl. Then, before you knew it, I had kids limping up to my door or falling to the ground writhing in “pain” stating they were injured!

Finally, by the grace of God, the bell rang and they headed back to their classroom. I stood quietly in the office wondering, what the hell just happened?

It was 11:30 a.m. and I was scheduled to work until 5:00 p.m. I knew at this point I could never be a “real teacher” in a Jamaican classroom!

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I Like Goats

It recently occurred to me that I have been taking a lot of pictures of goats in Jamaica. I’m not exactly sure of the origin of my fascination, but it’s there. I have goats from Hellshire Beach, goats from Stony Hill, goats from Port Antonio…the list goes on and on.

A few weeks ago, while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, I was talking to my friend and I was telling her that I’ve been getting a little bored at night. You see, I have one Jamaican friend (I’m working on a second) and typically, when I leave school, I just come home. I do have Internet and a TV that gets one fuzzy channel and I read and cook but these things only take up so much time. So my friend suggested I make a calendar and give it to people for Christmas. She said that could be my Christmas gift to people since I won’t have the funds to buy presents – a nice, computer-generated .pdf file.

I really liked the idea and today I was thinking that I want to do a “Goats of Jamaica” calendar. I feel that goats are underrepresented in the animal kingdom. Think of all the animal calendars out there. There are dog calendars with fluffy little bichons on the covers and cat calendars and horse calendars. But are there goat calendars? I think not.

So, if you are a family member and I draw your name in the Christmas pool, or if you are a close friend of mine, expect to see a “Goats of Jamaica 2013 Calendar” in your inbox come next December.

Joey (R.I.P.) from Stony Hill, Jamaica

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Meditation

Yesterday I met with some of my first and second graders who are participating in my “Anger Management” class. After we reviewed some of the strategies to use when someone is bothering you, I asked the kids if they had ever heard of yoga. They said they hadn’t. Then I asked if they had heard of meditation and one boy said, “Yes Miss, my mom gives it to me and it tastes bad!” 🙂

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm

I recently came across a notice for a poster competition where the theme was, “Youth Gambling Prevention.” The competition was being sponsored by the Betting Gaming & Lotteries Commission. Isn’t that like Miller Lite sponsoring an Alcoholics Anonymous Convention? The things that make you go hmmm.

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Another Transportation Story

I believe I experienced a “personal best” yesterday. I had to travel to Kingston for a doctor’s appointment. Now that I think about it, there were two personal bests. My first best came when I boarded a 4-row passenger mini-van taxi. I was the second passenger to board. When all was said and done, there were 27 people (including the driver) in that mini-van! There were kids 3-deep in my row.

My second personal best has to do with the number of vehicles I traveled in to get to and from my appointment: 5 taxis, 2 Peace Corps vehicles, and 1 bus. Official diagnosis from the doctor, “Menopause.”

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Another Kid Story

Yesterday as I was firing up my computer to pull up my attendance list for the students in my Conflict Resolution class, a young boy asked me if he could be in my class. I told him that he didn’t want to be in my class because it was for kids who don’t know how to behave. He said to me, very emphatically, “Miss, I don’t know how to behave! Then he turned to a classmate and said, “Right TrisAnne? I don’t know how to behave!” … I love these kids!

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You Gotta Love Kids

While sitting in the guidance office at the primary school I’m working at, a young boy came into the office holding an 18″ iron bar. He told me that another boy had “licked” him on his jaw and said something about his mother. I asked him to tell me what happened and he explained the situation. I asked him if he had licked the boy back and he said, “No.” I told him he made the right decision by not licking the boy back. I also reminded him that if someone licks him, he needs to tell the teacher or one of the guidance counselors. We discussed the situation further, all the while continuing to emphasize his good decision-making skills. Then he said to me, “Miss, I didn’t lick him because I couldn’t catch him.”

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