I always wanted to study abroad in college, but I was never sure where I could fit that into my schedule. And then a wonderful opportunity appeared last December, and I was beyond excited when I was accepted into a program through the nonprofit organization, One Heart Source, which would allow me to teach children in a developing country.
It was an incredible experience that changed my life in many aspects, and made me want to pursue more experiences in different countries.
This past July, I taught fifth grade students English and mathematics at a school called Upper Rock Springs in Hanover, Jamaica, for two weeks. I did not know what to expect when I arrived in Jamaica, but I was ready for anything. I wanted to experience new cultures and adventures, and I knew Jamaica would provide me with those opportunities. From teaching children in a developing country for the first time, to trying exotic foods, to zip-lining above waterfalls, I definitely reached my goal in experiences and adventures in only two weeks.
I stayed in a beautiful place called Zimbali Retreats, located in the Canaan Mountains on a Rasta Farm, approximately an hour and a half from Montego Bay. From the moment I stepped onto the property, I felt as one with nature. It is a unique, beautiful and distinctive place that is embedded in and overflowing with true Jamaican culture. It fills your soul with peace and tranquility from the natural surroundings and cultural influences.
The people who worked at Zimbali Retreats embraced me with Jamaican customs, immersed me in the Jamaican way of life and expanded my horizons. They played a great role in making my experience unforgettable.
When I arrived in Jamaica, I did not know what to expect, which students I would be working with or the specific curriculum I would be teaching. I was assigned to teach female fifth grade students. I was very excited to meet them, and to start teaching. The organization provided all of the volunteers with some materials that we could use with our students for teaching. I could not wait to arrive to the school and get started.
I went to Jamaica to teach, but I found that my students taught me a lot in the short amount of time I was with them. They made me realize how important and valuable it was to them that they receive an education.
One of my students wrote me a letter on the white board one day, apologizing for being late because she had to walk to school. These students would do anything to make sure that they were at school each day. They knew that receiving an education was important for them to succeed in life.
I want all students to appreciate and value school, and realize that most students are fortunate that they do not have to walk long distances or worry all the time of how they will make it to school. An education is not always valued and guaranteed all over the world, and we need to help American students understand how privileged they are in their access to a highly respected American education.
At first, I was challenged with teaching the academic content because my students were very intelligent, and had already mastered and surpassed the content of the math curriculum. They were getting bored with the curriculum that I was expected to teach them. They all wanted to be given activities that provided them with more of a challenge. I was trying to determine how they would learn and how I could create activities that were challenging yet interesting. It took a lot of hard work to figure out how to create engaging and meaningful activities, but by the end of the second week, I had finally put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. I realized I could create activities that interest gifted students while still providing them with a challenge.
I created many lessons for math and English throughout the time I was there, but there was one lesson in particular that was very successful. I knew that implementing technology into my lesson would intrigue my students and, luckily, I had brought my iPad with me and was able to use it for this lesson.
With one student, we used the iPad to enhance her understanding of the parts of speech by using the Mad Libs app. She was very engaged during the entire lesson and it improved her understanding by having her come up with the correct part of speech that was required for each Mad Lib. It was very rewarding to execute this lesson and have a highly successful outcome.
Overall, this experience was beyond compare. I did not expect to have tried as many new things as I did while I was gaining experience in the profession I love! I am so thankful for the opportunities this trip provided and it has strengthened my desire to teach more children and create more experiences like this again and again.
I want to thank One Heart Source for providing me with this opportunity, and for all of the work that they do. I recommend that everyone participate in this program, as the children were wonderful and it is an experience that everyone could benefit from! It is an experience you will never forget.