Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Testing time for teachers - GSAT preparations putting pressure on more than students and parents

Published:Sunday | March 13, 2016 | 12:45 AMRyon Jones
Teachers Sheldon Allen (right) and Terral Christian, giving personnal attention to their students preparing for GSAT at the Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School, last Friday.

While it is generally accepted that the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) puts pressure on the students sitting it each year and the parents who worry about where their children will be placed, not much thought is usually given to the stress on the teachers who are preparing the students.

More than 39,000 students are slated to sit the GSAT this week and several teachers are going the extra mile to ensure the youngsters are prepared for the two days that could significantly shape their future.

Two of the teachers, who have dedicated their time and effort to give their pupils the best chance of doing well on Thursday and Friday, are Terral Christian and Sheldon Allen of Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School in St Andrew.

“As someone who has the experience not only as a teacher, but someone who has passed through the system I think that I am able to encourage and motivate them for one of the major exams in their lives,” said 26-year-old Christian.

“It is a passion. Being a product of GSAT I am aware of some of the tactics and most of all it is fun.”

For Allen teaching is a passion and he believes it should not just be about giving instructions in a classroom, but developing a relationship with the students.

“I don’t only talk about teaching as a passion I demonstrate it. I am finishing up my masters, because I believe that every teacher must be a master at the craft of teaching,”  29-year-old Allen told The Sunday Gleaner.

“I live in White Hall, so I understand the circumstances; I understand the poverty level and so therefore every opportunity that you can get to impart you have to do it.”

The two male teachers, have provided extra lessons and Saturday classes, have also established a group on the information sharing system WhatsApp, and an email address, to share information with their students.

They have also given them projects to undertake and made compact discs with additional material for their students.

“We also teach them how to study, how to present themselves when they meet up with other children, because most of them are not so exposed to the wider society. Some of them are immature, so we also get past students to come and talk to them about what the high school life will be like,” said Christian.

“My class started a WhatsApp group that ends about 8:30 each night where I put some questions in the group and allow them to answer.

“Not all have been able to access it because some don’t have smart phones and some don’t have any service, but for the ones that have been able to it has been working well,” added Christian.
Eighty-one students from the school will be sitting this year’s GSAT and the teachers’ are aiming for an improvement in the average grades.

“We expect to get at least 10 per cent more on the average grades of each subject that we do in GSAT,” Christian said. 

The teachers’ efforts to achieve this culminated with a boot camp which started on Friday and ends today.

“We started the camps last year and we realised that the students stepped up last year in terms of some of the grades. We saw some 100 per cent last year in particular subject areas especially in the sciences,” Christian said.

The camp, which will see the presence of a female teacher and the mother of one of the students, will not just be about studying, as the teachers believe it is important for the students to relax going into the exams.

Parents were asked to pay $1,500 for each student attending the camp and this covers meals, snacks and stationary.

“What we have done is structure it in such a way that we will do the academics during the day then give them a break, then have a little quiz, then have a general time when we watch the news, when we have discussions and students will be given topics to go in groups and break down,” Allen explained.

“We also intend to have a little bonfire tonight of the camp where we sit down and just talk and have a wonderful time.”