At breakfast, I told Larry that I was going to walk up to the school and look for work. He had some crazy idea about me going back and forth between the school and the toilet project. Now, here's the thing about the church toilet project. It was a much needed project. The town has no area large enough for everyone to get together with functioning bathroom facilities. Also, the church service lasts for hours and everyone was having to go back to their houses (read: hike the mountain) if they had an urge to purge! However, there were plenty of people to work on the project. Also, the Jamaican men were not real big on letting the women close to the construction. They tell us, "Go relax, go relax, I got 'dis," and then send us off with a wave of the machete. I didn't see the point in my going back and forth between the toilet and the school, so I decided to walk up to the school and see if they needed my help.
After breakfast, Stephanie, Riel and Cheviess left for the airport. Cheviess had been sick since Day One, and her mom wanted to take her home. Luckily, Rachel was able to catch a ride with them to get her luggage, but it also meant that she would be riding back the 2 hours alone with a man from the community. I gave her my cell phone just in case. Why Larry couldn't take them in the Global car, I don't know, but whatever.
(Oddly enough, my cell phone worked in Jamaica. I can't get a signal inside my condo, but I got five full bars in Mt. Vernon Jamaica. Way to go, AT&T.)
When I arrived at the school, I was greeted by Mrs. Pauline. She looked instantly relieved to see me. I watched the children go through their morning devotion, which consists of saying the pledge, the Lord's prayer, the Jamaican National Anthem, and ends with the children saying "Good morning classmates, good morning teacher." I instantly fell in love with the Jamaican National Pledge. It is so uplifting and positive compared to our Pledge of Allegiance. My mood did a complete 180.
The school, although small, is a happy little building. Mt. Vernon Primary serves children ages 3 to 12. It basically consists of one giant room split into three sections. One section is for the "basics" school (age 3-6), another section for grades 1-5, and a third for grade 6. There were approximately 20 kids present that day. I spent the morning reading to the children. The sixth grade teacher showed up, and Mrs. Pauline sent me to the "basics" school to wait for their teacher while she started the lessons for grades 1-5.
Taking the 8 little ones was a bit daunting for me. I know kids. Big kids. Preteen, awkward, hormonal kids. I don't know three year olds. However, the kids energy and smiles won me over and gave me the confidence to wrangle with them for an hour until their teacher arrived. I was very impressed at how many of the littlest ones could write not only their name, but the names of their classmates! I read about three books, and broke up some minor fights about who got to sit closest to the book. (At some point, Larry came by and took pictures.)
When Cari-Ann, the basic school teacher, arrived I went back to help Mrs. Pauline. I sat with the first graders and helped them with spelling and penmanship. I taught a lesson about the difference between "is" and "are". It was difficult, because I had to share a chalkboard with Mrs. Pauline and the 6th grade teacher (who was writing on the opposite side of the board). The kids seemed unfazed, and I couldn't help but think of all the "accomodations" we make for kids in the U.S. who have trouble paying attention. They'd flunk out of Mt. Vernon's school.
I walked back to the house for lunch and found that it was quite empty without Rachel, Stephanie, Riel and Cheviess. However, we had cock stew (read: rooster soup) for lunch and I couldn't stop giggling. It cheered me up.
After lunch, I power-walked it back to the school with Maureen and Larry. Maureen helped me work with the kids and Larry taught a math lesson to the 6th grade boys. The afternoon sun was microwaving that building in the Jamaican heat. Mrs. Pauline rang an actual bell to release the students, who had to say a prayer of thanks before leaving. The kids hugged me and said, "We'll see you at the party!!"
"The Party" was a birthday party for eleven-year-old Shaffae. It was the most culutural experience of the entire trip. And therefore, you'll have to wait for it to get it's very own post. Until then, I'll leave you with the Jamaican National Pledge:
Before God and All mankind.
I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart
The wisdom and courage of my mind,
The strength and vigour of my body
in the service of my fellow citizens.
I promise to stand up for justice,
Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively,
To think generously and honestly, so that,
Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship
and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare
of the whole human race.