The Department of Education’s Abaco District presented its Teachers’ Professional Development Exercise last week.
The school-based session was held on Oct. 25, while the district-wide exercise was held on Oct. 26 at Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS) under the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) theme: “Understanding the Whole Picture: Imaging the Finished Results.”
The moderator was Paul Knowles, Principal of J.A. Pinder Primary School and 2017-2019 Teacher of the Year for the Abaco District and CAPS. Education Officer Sandy Edwards led the audience in devotion, while Rev. Livingstone Edwards, pastor of Daystar Bible Church, delivered the devotional thought for the day.
Meanwhile, District Superintendent Dr. Lenora Black brought the welcome remarks along with the purpose for the program.
Jamal McIntosh, Teacher of the Year at Patrick J. Bethel High School, introduced the guest speaker – Donavon Bowe.
Bowe, a teacher from The Beacon School in Grand Bahama, spoke on the topic: “Capacity Building for Educational Practitioners.”
“Just a little foundation for our conversation this morning: The Bahamas’ Ministry of Education (MOE) has responsibility for more than 50,000 K-12 students in approximately 170 educational institutions in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and these institutions are dispersed over 14 districts in the major islands,” he shared. “The ministry’s goal is to increase the graduation rate from 50% to 80% by 2030.”
In his delivery, Bowe covered three main points regarding the teacher as a professional, teacher efficacy and how connecting with the personal journey of the students can assist teachers in reaching them.
While addressing his first point on professionalism, Bowe said that professionalism is not as simple as slipping into professional wear. In fact, he cited the Teaching in Focus: Teacher Professionalism International Survey (TALIS), which indicates that teacher professionalism is about a teacher’s knowledge, a teacher’s autonomy and their membership of peer networks.
These, he said, are the key elements that lead to more effective teaching.
“Until we increase our knowledge base as teacher professionals, our finished results will continue to look the same,” Bowe admonished. “Many of you complained about coming here this morning for this professional development session, but you want your students to be excited when they come to your class. The excitement that you have for learning is in direct relationship to that of your students.”
After expounding on the points of teacher autonomy and peer networks, Bowe conducted a short exercise called exercising truth. The teachers were asked to raise their hands if they had visited Facebook that morning, checked a Whatsapp message or if they have an Instagram account.
“If you have raised your hand at least once, you are already a part of a network, no membership fee, so with just a little bit more work you can cultivate these platforms to your benefit,” he informed them. “Social media is here to stay and if you don’t embrace it, you will be left behind… the small classroom that you are in is not the world.
“We are preparing our students not to takes tests, but to live life.”
Bowe said that teachers around the world are increasingly being asked to teach more diverse student populations, which includes disadvantaged and immigrant students as well as students who may not be proficient in the country’s principle language.
“Investing in teachers’ professionalism is one way that education systems can help teachers face these challenges and, by doing so, ensure that all students receive the high-quality teaching they need to succeed,” he assured.
His final point was efficacy.
“Teacher efficacy is about rooting for kids. I’m a teacher at Grand Bahama’s only public special education institution, The Beacon School, currently working with my second cohort of Senior Boys in Job Readiness Program, [which is comprised of] high functioning students who will one day make their mark in society.”
Instead of telling a student they should have done better when they fail to get the correct answers on a test, or come up a few words short on an essay, he congratulates them on what they got right and helps them focus on how to improve next time.
“Learning must be intentional, and teacher efficacy proves for greater achievement. We have to believe in our students because amazing things happen when a school staff shares the belief that they are able to achieve collective goals and overcome challenges to impact student achievement,” he expressed. “My students know that if anyone has their back, it’s me.”
Bowe was pleased to see great strides being made in The Bahamas to increase the value placed on education despite the existence of many external pressures. Therefore, he encouraged teachers to do their part to make education relevant and fun.
Acting District Superintendent Dominique Russell informed teachers of the room locations where they would go to participate in Sessions 2 and 3 of the development exercise following a 15-minute break.
Presenters for the afternoon sessions included: Willarine Rodgers, subject secretary from the Ministry of Education’s Evaluation and Assessment Division; Lonice Hart and Latoya Burrows, SEO Social Studies Teachers at Gerald Cash Primary School; Camru Rahiem, mathematics teacher at Moore’s Island Comprehensive School; Nadia Smith-McDermott, 6th grade teacher at Fox Town Primary School; and Bloneva Pinder, preschool teacher at Central Abaco Primary.
The participants were comprised of preschool, upper and lower primary teachers as well as high school teachers and NEC Administrators.
Russell closed out the program with session takeaways and the benediction.