Team effort towards successful students
Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: Oct 10, 2012
At T.G. Glover Primary School the teachers are empowered, encouraged, rewarded and motivated, in a team effort approach, because at that institution they want everyone from administration to teachers in the classroom to realize that the school’s goal is to achieve success, and that to attain that success it can only be achieved through hard work.
Teachers are encouraged to realize that if they put quality time into preparing their lesson plans and are able to deliver the information to their children, the school will have quality teaching and learning which will translate into good results.
But good results go beyond what is just done at school, because Vice-Principal Carolyn Wright-Mitchell said parental involvement will factor heavily into what they are doing at the school.
“When we have administrators doing what they’re supposed to do, teachers teaching and producing that quality education and bringing out all the different skills to assist the child — orally, verbally and visually — and the parents working assiduously with us, we’re due to have success,” said Wright-Mitchell one of two teachers who recently returned home with a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy from East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, China.
Wright-Mitchell, the former senior mistress at Garvin Tynes Primary School, returned home from China at the end of August in time for her new position at T.G. Glover School for the new school year where she is in charge of curriculum development, pre-school, grade one and special education.
A little over a month into the year she said she’s excited about working at T.G. Glover and being able to adopt some of the things she learned.
During her master’s program, Wright-Mitchell said they looked at numerous teacher development models around the world, and found that there were very good models in China, particularly Shanghai where she studied. And that the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rated Shanghai students as number one in the world in the areas of math, science and reading. That led them to question what the Shanghai teachers were doing and to examine the model. They learned that in-service training was a priority for them.
“A lot of times we tend to get so caught up with pre-service — you have to have a bachelor’s degree, you have to have a master’s degree, but even though Chinese teachers walk into the classroom with a master’s degree, they end up doing approximately 240 hours of in-service training (continuous professional development activities) within the first three years,” she said.
“They go to different institutes to upgrade their skills, so they’re sharpening their skills all year round. In fact, during the summer break, the teachers in China are required to write a dissertation... a master’s thesis, so it’s a lot of continuous preparation.
“And a teacher may find they’re not as good in an area such as mathematics, or being able to teach phonics or reading, but they have an institute there that they can go to and sharpen their tools. And they’re being taught by experts, or advanced teachers.”
In-service training that would enhance the knowledge a teacher already has is one thing she would like to see adopted among Bahamian teachers from the Chinese model.
“Our teachers are very talented, but the more in-service training they can do the better they become at producing a high quality of education within the classroom,” she said.
The Bahamas offers a teacher development program that is similar in nature to in-service training. It’s a two-week workshop, but Wright-Mitchell said it’s always good for teachers to go after additional training, especially those teachers that become a little comfortable.
Currently teachers are mandated to participate in up to 35 hours per year of professional development. It is Wright-Mitchell’s hope that teachers not do it simply because it’s mandated, but because they want to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in education, and want to exude a spirit of excellence.
A different leadership style
Wright-Mitchell said after her studies she was able to go to T.G. Glover with a different style of leadership in terms of bringing with her views to empower people around her.
“A lot of times we are placed in an administrative position and we are encouraged to inspire our teachers to become leaders themselves within the classroom and within the school. I’m able to bring to T.G. Glover a different style of leadership,” she said.
Wright-Mitchell said the approach at her school is all about teamwork, even though it’s just been over a month since the start of the new school year.
“At T.G. Glover we are all about teamwork and administrators are working diligently to ensure that all teachers become active participants in the teaching and learning process,” she said.
The level of parental involvement she saw in China, she said, blew her mind away. And she wants to encourage parents to be more involved with the school and their children.
“Because of the one child policy in China, the parents were fully engaged with their children,” she said.
“I lived in a hotel, and right opposite that was the preschool, primary school and junior school. And those parents dropped their children off at 7:30 a.m., and picked up their kids at 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“I was in awe about it. And then on Saturdays when you hit the metro, you would see the parent with the one child with the tennis racket, with the horn, whatever musical instrument, whatever extracurricular activity, and they would go from morning until evening, working with their child.”
What she saw impacted her so much that she said when she returned home she told her two daughters that they had the ability within them to maintain a 3.5 grade point average and learn Spanish and music, because she saw it happen in China.
“In China, parents play an integral part in their children’s education and we realize that with parents, teachers and the school, it is going to be a recipe for success; and parental involvement is what I’m trying to push for,” she said.
Educational in more ways than one
Not only did she earn a master’s degree, but for Wright-Mitchell a year in China was an all-around learning experience.
“Going to China really changed my perspective on life,” she said.
“I did not only learn things in the classroom, but my perspective on life has actually changed in terms of culture and way of life. Just having the opportunity to live in China... my life, my diet, everything about me basically changed. I’ve always had a great sense of appreciation, but I have it even more so now for the environment, for culture, for the way I eat. I just don’t take anything for granted.”
And while she was there she missed home, now that she’s back, she misses China and said if she had the opportunity she would live there.
“What I miss most about it are the fruits and vegetables — everything was green, ripe and ready, and to me, the vegetables were inexpensive. [The year in China] taught me how to really eat properly. And it’s so amazing that Chinese eat white rice at least three times per day, with vegetables and meat. Chinese food in Nassau is totally different from the Chinese food in China,” she said.
Wright-Mitchell spent her year in China with fellow educator, Joyann Rolle who is now the principal at Naomi Blatch Preschool. She said they had great experiences and are willing to share, but are cognizant of the fact that they can only take one step at a time. And one of the ways she said they can make a difference is by starting with the teachers and getting them engaged and motivated to try some of the things they were exposed to. She said they can start there and see what happens.
The duo also met with Ministry of Education officials last week to discuss what they had learnt, but haven’t yet fully presented the information to ministry officials. Educator Prince Moss is currently in China, continuing on the path that Wright-Mitchell and Rolle have set.
“I’m grateful to the Republic of China, the government and ECNU along with the Ministry of Education and Director of Education [Lionel Sands] for affording me the opportunity,” she said.
" It is my hope that very soon we would be able to meet with the parties concerned to formulate strategies that would add to the enhancement of education in the Bahamas. We want to be proactive about what we’ve learnt there. I truly benefitted from the many great models that we were exposed to and I am excited to share what i have learnt,” said Wright-Mitchell.