The worldwide Augustana College experience

Diamonds In The Rough

Going into our first day of teaching at the Alpha Girls School I was a little bit nervous. I have never actually taught any class. The most that I have done is help out and observe during a clinical. I knew that I was in for much more. At the beginning of the day, before we began teaching, we told one of the teachers in the math department that we were going to be teaching and she replied with a joking “good luck”. It was a friendly “good luck”, but it also seemed to imply that the girls were going to be misbehaved and hard to handle. However, after the first five minutes of being in our 5th form pull out session any doubts or nerves that I had about the week were completely gone. The girls were smiling from ear to ear almost the entire lesson. They were incredibly well behaved, respectful, genuine, and interested in what we had to say to them. It was as if they were excited to be learning algebra! They were interested in what we had to say, but I cannot imagine them being more interested in us than we were in them. Here were young girls that have had rough upbringings and are living in poverty that are extremely respectful and truly care about their education and I was captivated by it. It was incredible to see the way that they were determined to learn the material. Perhaps part of it was that they had the CXC exams coming up so they knew a specific reason that they needed to know the material, but they also really cared about their education.

While in our cooperating teacher, Ms. Rose’s 6th form class, the girls were getting a little rowdy. Ms. Rose told the girls to quiet down or she was going to leave. I immediately thought that this was a horrible strategy to get students to quiet down, but I had underestimated the students. That silenced them like you wouldn’t believe. The thought of their teacher leaving and them not learning anything that period was enough to bring them to their best behavior. I feel as if a teacher tried this technique in america the students would only get louder. They would not care if the teacher left. If anything, they would prefer it if the teacher left. The way in which the students at Alpha Girls School view education is so different than the way the students in america view education. I know, because they definitely have a more positive view towards it than I did. At Alpha the girls were not just trying to get by and get through school. They were trying to get as much out of it as they could. They realize that the education that they are getting is not free, it is costing their family a great deal of money, their family does not have much money in the first place, and that education is the way out of poverty in Kingston.

Just being at Alpha for one week I can see how girls can go through a school like that and come out with the skills and the drive to make something incredible of their lives. I heard of many success stories of girls going though Alpha while we were down there. First of all, Ms. Rose was Dr. Egan’s student. She now has been teaching at Alpha for 9 years and has her MBA. She plans on working as a business woman after her time at Alpha and I know she will be very successful. There were also Dr. Egan’s former students who we met at Frenchman’s cove. These girls were very obviously successful. Frenchman’s cove is the only beach that I saw that you had to pay to get in. Those girls were out of Kingston and living comfortably. They used their education as a way to get out and have a better life. They understood what education could do for them just like the current Alpha girls understand what education can do for them.

Besides education, there is another way for the students to rise up out of poverty. While we were down in Jamaica we heard many stories of a girl named Peaches. Peaches ran track and field for Alpha. She was the high school national champion in the high jump, got a scholarship, at University Iowa, got their school record in the high jump, and now is living comfortably in the United States with a college education. To many of the girls, athletics is the way out and the ticket to a better life. They are very focused and very talented. Not to mention, these girls are extremely humble. Some of the girls that I ran with are some of the best high school runners in the entire country and you would not even be able to tell until you run against them in a 400 and they are breathing down your neck. I did a workout with the girls on the track team on Tuesday and I was blown away by their talent, drive, and humbleness. I found out that one of the girls runs a 56 in the 400. That is a quarter of a mile in 56 seconds. Just for a frame of reference, these girls are in high school and there is not a single girl on the track team here at Augie that could touch a girl who is running a 56 second 400.

These girls realize that they are in the rough. They realized that they have the ability and the opportunity to educate themselves and train their way into greatness. These girls are truly diamonds in the rough. While trying to explain the spirit of these girls to people back here in America I am just not understood. And how can you blame them? A spirit like the spirit that Alpha Girls School fosters is not even fathomable until you see it and the changes that it makes in the lives of the girls. The spirit of the girls at alpha will stay with me for the rest of my life. Hopefully I have the opportunity to go back to Alpha next year during spring break again and I am even considering going down to Alpha after graduation to teach there for a few years if they would have me. One week at the school was not nearly enough. There is still so much left to learn from these girls.

Leave a Reply