This week the mornings have been particularly lovely. As the days get shorter and the nights cooler the sun is only just peaking over the mountains and has not acquired the strength nor height to burn the clouds off as I head out to work. The clouds blanket the mountain tops, imitating snow, though with a softness of contour that snow covered mountains do not achieve. The clouds tumble down from the peaks, like benign avalanches that evaporate as they meet the warmth of the plains air rising from Kingston. It is a wonderful sight with which to start the day.
Another indication of the time of year and the season this week has been the many workers on ladders and in "cherry-pickers" wrapping the straight, tall trunks of palms with millions of Christmas lights! By the end of the week the shopping plaza parking lots were ablaze with Christmas lights and as the darkness sets in by six in the evening it looks wonderfully festive. It still looks a little incongruous to me that the trees illuminated are palm trees, but I am happy to accommodate this minor dissonance given the temperature won't drop below 24 degrees Celsius!
Work has been a typical combination of time with students, organisational change work and meetings, and work with the Ministry of Education.
As the demands of school increase for both teachers and students more suspensions are being given. There also seems to be an increase in gang activity in the schools. Students who are emulating the social structures that they experience in their yards, on the streets and in the communities. These are not sophisticated, highly structured gangs but rather loose groups of "friends" who form alliances to deal with perceived injustices. They form and reform in various combinations and characteristically are gender specific. Even with this loose formation leaders become apparent and these are often the students who come to the programme. They are often bright and articulate and painfully aware of the inadequacies of their environment and the limited potential the future offers.
The work at the Ministry of Education was focused on the development of a Behaviour Management Toolkit that is being developed to support all classroom teachers. A counselling department in one of the smaller universities was funded to develop the kit and after a year has presented a very poor product. The young woman at the Ministry of Education who has recently been delegated to manage and distribute the toolkit fully understands the product she has been provide with is unusable so has persuaded a number of us to work with her to re-format and redevelop the kit. There is an enormous amount of activity at the Ministry level to try and provide teachers with tools and training to assist in managing classrooms that have too many students, too few resources and high demands for academic achievement. this work is being done by many who are highly motivated to improve things but are also conscious that the economic environment is so constrained that producing and implementing the resources they are working on is going to be difficult.
The weekend has been spent in Montego Bay, doing nothing ambitious and enjoying the quiet relaxation of lovely surroundings. The drive up across the north coast road, which I have not done in a few months, provided vistas as lovely as ever. The day offered blue skies, sunshine and sunshowers, a beautiful sunset and a relaxed dinner beside the harbour with the friend who accompanied me for the weekend. Perhaps today a while at the beach after a slow, gentle start. And then we will return to the noise and bustle of Kingston, perhaps through Fern Gully or perhaps again tempted by the coast road that has endless horizons as we drive with the sun setting behind us.
(sunset pic courtesy of Steph)