By Klao Bell, Education Editor
MORE THAN two dozen English teachers from the 14 technical high schools across the island met at the Medallion Hall Hotel last week for a training session in effective ways to teach some components of the CXC syllabus.
The workshop was the sixth in a series held within the past four years as part of the HEART Trust/NTA's Technical High Schools Development Project.
English Language and Literature experts Doris Mayne, Dr. Ivy Mitchell, Pauline White and Peter Maxwell imparted techniques in effective delivery of short story writing, poetry, statistical reporting and persuasive writing.
The three presenters have worked with CXC, either as examiners or on developing the syllabus.
"The workshops help teachers to acquire skills to prepare students to succeed in CXC," said Lovida Jones, Project Director.
Seven of the 14 technical high schools have three-year programmes, from Grades 9-11 and are fed mainly by students from junior high schools. As such, both the time teachers have to prepare students for CXC, and the students' knowledge base, are insufficient. "Despite these factors, we have to come up with strategies to succeed," Mrs. Jones said.
Mrs. Mayne, who presented on short story writing, applauded the teachers' enthusiasm but pointed out that they were challenged by students' failure to read widely as well as the "prominent use of creole."
Poetry presenter, Dr. Mitchell, said some students were turned off by the concepts and seeming abstractness of poetry. However, she showed the group of teachers how to choose poems that were relevant to life. She said when asked to write poems or stories, some students invariably write on themes of violence and sex.
"But teachers don't have to be turned off by that, instead they can channel that focus on violence and sex by asking students to write poems about how to prevent violence or how to deal with sexual relationships. Teachers can also skilfully encourage students to look at other aspects of society, but the lesson here is to make poetry relevant," Dr. Mitchell said.
Lanceford Grant, teacher from the St. Thomas Technical High School, said he gleaned innovative ideas from the workshops.
"Every workshop has boosted my presentational skills and I return to the classroom with fresh ideas," Mr. Grant said.
He gave an example.
"One technique I learnt about getting students to write using their own words, was to first get them to read the original material twice. Then have them place the paper on the chair and sit on it while they thought about what they had read. This helped with classroom management and it was a lighter way of getting them to develop the discipline of thinking on their own," Mr. Grant said.
He pointed out that although some aspects of the workshops were taught in teachers' college, "teaching is a profession which requires life-long learning. And opportunities like these are essential to keep us abreast of new methods."
Tracy-Ann Donaldson of the Frome Technical High School in Westmoreland was encouraged by the support she got from other teachers who face similar challenges in the classroom. "It's really frustrating when you teach and see at the end of the day that the percentage pass might be low, so it's good to have a wider scope of ideas to work with.