Jennifer Dickinson - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Jamaica
When I first went to Jamaica for a vacation I loved it so much that I wanted to experience the real Jamaica. I picked Jamaica because I wanted to learn more about the culture and see the sites. I really wanted to teach English so I could use my skills to help other people. This is when I found Projects Abroad who arrange voluntary teaching placements with children.
Arranging my teaching project
Once I had arranged my placement through Projects Abroad they did all the work and kept in touch with me right up until I boarded my plane. All I had to do was pack my case. I was very nervous on the plane as didn’t know what to expect, however once I got to my host family’s house I was welcomed with open arms.
They showed me around the house and cooked me a variety of different Jamaican foods for me to try. My favorite was Jerk Chicken and rice. In the first week I was very overwhelmed and a little home sick, however once I got familiar with the town and people those worries soon faded.
The house that I lived in was lovely and I had my own room and bathroom, which I was responsible for keeping clean and tidy. There was plenty of room and facilities for my chores. My host family also introduced me to the local community by taking me to church. Whilst at church I got to see how important religion is and how everybody works together.
Arrival to Jamaica
The day after I arrived I had my induction with Projects Abroad and all the staff was so friendly and helpful. They had so much information to give me about the town of Mandeville. I was shown round the town and to my placement at Bethabara Infant School. All the teachers were very welcoming and excited to have me starting my placement.
My Teaching Placement
Once I started my placement the teachers took care of me and settled me into the daily activities. The children were so energetic and involved me with their playtime and showed me the things they had already learned. My favorite topic in class was when the children were learning about the different countries around the world. When I got there they were learning about the Middle East. My favorite part of the day was story time as the children had such imaginations.
When at my placement I had three children that I looked after. These children were a little slower at learning than the rest of the group. I helped them write letters and helped them understand words. We also did some coloring and used play dough to help the children learn different shapes and colors. I also helped the teacher when the children were misbehaving so they could understand certain disciplines.
When I was not at my placement I explored the island. On the weekend I went to places such as Negril, Treasure Beach and Black River. It was so easy getting to different places by taxi as the drivers were so helpful with giving directions. At the end of every week I would look at the map given to me and plan where I wanted to go at the weekend. Many of the volunteers had already been all over the island so they had plenty of advice to give me and numbers to call for accommodation.
I also attended the activities put together by Projects Abroad which involved an international cuisine night where we cooked apple crumble, a karaoke night, reggae dance classes where we learned some Jamaican dance moves and also Patois classes. Through the week we had regular meetings every Thursday with the other Teaching volunteers. This was helpful as we shared our experiences and tips that we used in the classroom. It was good for someone like me who had just arrived and needed some advice of ways to use my skills to the best of my ability. Some of the volunteers used games to attract the children’s attention while some used hand gestures and loud voices.
We also had a ‘dirty day’ where we helped build the foundations of a house for an elderly gentleman called Bill. It was good fun working together with the other volunteers and getting to know them. I also went to some of the local bars around Mandeville and got to know many of the locals. I learned a lot from the locals and I was able to talk about my life back in England.
I learned a lot about the Jamaican culture and enjoyed every minute. I will feel more confident in using my knowledge next time I come to Jamaica. Since I have got back home I have shared my experiences with my family and friends. I am planning to go back this year and see even more as there is always more to see. It was hard going back to reality at home but it has given me more life experience.