An Exchange of Students, Ideas

March 25, 2019

A partnership between the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education at St. John Fisher College and Shortwood Teachers College in Kingston, Jamaica once again gave three students from each college the chance to experience education from a new perspective.

Desine Butler, Odeisha Clunie, and Leslie-Ann Gregory, third-year students from Shortwood Teachers College in Jamaica, came to Fisher through the student-exchange program.

For six weeks at the start of the spring semester, Fisher students Kyle Turton ’19, Kelly Lagnese ’19, and Samantha DiPerna ’19 traveled to the Caribbean island, while Leslie-Ann Gregory, Odeisha Clunie, and Desine Butler, third-year students from Shortwood, came to Fisher.

“I knew that there would be differences in resources available, teaching pedagogy, and school rules, but I wanted to truly experience that difference, and see which aspects of their methods aligned with those we have learned at Fisher, and which did not,” said Turton. “It showed me how to open up my mind to even more teaching methods, especially when there are fewer resources to choose from.”

Lagnese, a senior studying childhood education and English, agreed.

“I knew it would be a learning experience that would influence the way I thought about education,” she said. “It allowed me to immerse myself in another culture and observe the way they teach and go about education.”

Turton is majoring in inclusive adolescence education and history at Fisher. While in Jamaica, he observed teachers at St. Hugh’s High School, an all-girls school. Each day, he was able to teach or co-teach two classes per day; Turton’s lessons centered around Jamaica’s national heroes.

“The biggest takeaway regarding teaching techniques was the motto, ‘teach with what is around you,’” said Turton. “If taken literally, it can mean the resources physically in the room, or as was shown to me through this program, to teach the material that you need to through history and culture of the environment that you are in. I found this to be especially inspiring with teaching history, to explore the local history and try to tie that into the skills and standards that I have to teach here.”

Kelly Lagnese worked with five- and six-year-old students at Shortwood Practising School while in Jamaica.

Lagnese worked with five- and six-year-old students at Shortwood Practising School. Similar to American education, she said teachers there used songs in their lessons, and the experience underscored a few classroom management tips, as well.

“I learned how important it is for teachers to be flexible and able to act on their feet,” she said. “The teachers had to have backup plans for everything in case a piece of technology wasn’t working.”

At Fisher, the three Jamaican education majors brought similar perspectives to their experiences abroad.

“I choose the opportunity to be able to meet new people, teach students and share the knowledge I have, and learn from teachers here – find new strategies I can implement in the classroom back home,” said Butler, who is specializing in secondary math.

Clunie said in the Fisher courses, it was interesting to learn about education theorists and pedagogy from the American perspective.

“The course content was familiar, and it was refreshing to see that teaching is the same worldwide. We heard about the same theorists here, and it was good to see linkages between what we have learned in Jamaica and what is being taught here,” she explained. “And, we had the privilege of presenting a lesson to show students here how we could teach a lesson.”

In addition to attending several courses on campus, they observed teachers and taught at East Rochester High School. Gregory, who is specializing in secondary science education, observed East Rochester teacher James Bates’ biology class. She was struck by the creativity Bates brought to the classroom, sharing an anecdote about fossils and skulls he showed students during a lesson about the theory of evolution.

“I observed a lot how he interacted with students and gave them the freedom to express themselves and have fun while learning,” she said. “I will adopt some of his techniques to build a better rapport with my students in the future.”