Project Overseas (PO)is a volunteer opportunity through the Canadian Teachers` Federation (CTF) for Canadian teachers to work with colleagues within Africa and the Caribbean. But for every Canadian teacher who has the privilege to participate in what is affectionately called `P.O.`, the experience is an unmistakeable reminder of the importance of quality public education.
The opportunity to work alongside teachers in developing countries who are striving to expand and enhance their teaching practice is inspiring. It reminds you somewhere deep in your soul the universal truth that quality teachers play a pivotal role in the future of our students, and in real terms, the future of a country.
I have had the privilege to participate in three Caribbean projects and most recently to be part of the Summer Institute program in Jamaica which focuses on Special Education. When most people think of Jamaica, they call up images of the resorts of the north coast. But the reality is that many Jamaican children find themselves living in poverty, in neighborhoods where violence is common place, attending schools that lack resources and materials. And children living with physical disabilities sometimes don`t even find a welcome in school. But this is all changing with initiatives to bring inclusive teaching practices to Jamaica.
I was partnered with Dr. Polly Bowes-Howell, from the Jamaica Teachers` Association (JTA). A key advocate for special education in Jamaica, Dr. Bowes-Howell has her pulse on the needs of the local teachers. Together we developed a program that could help participants gain confidence to use hands-on, interactive and creative teaching methods. We wanted to help the Jamaican teachers remove the barriers that were preventing all children from getting quality education. We were encouraging practical methods to accommodate diverse learning needs. And, we were part of the process that is establishing a network of trained teachers who can support and encourage each other along the way.
When I think of the Jamaican teachers and administrators who have attended the JTA/CTF Summer Institute, and the Canadian teachers who worked alongside them, I know we all are returning to our schools with innovative strategies to use to assist our students in this adventure we call learning.
By Deirdre McKi,e a member of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, one of the 16 member organisations of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. CTF is affiliated to Education International.
Image credit: © CTF