Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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19/3/12: visit to Ardenne High

Please note that I've edited the previous two posts to include pictures sent to me by Geneve Henry and Debbie Devonish.

Today went to Ardenne High at the invitation of Topaz Berlin, one of the teachers who came to Reading with us in 2011.  Arrived just before 7.30am. and, whilst waiting to be met, the national anthem started up through the tannoy.  Didn't immediately recognise it, I do apologise.  One of the security guards asked me to stand which I duly did, then to realise that everybody on campus who was sitting had stood, all those who had been walking were standing still, and all the cars had also stopped moving.  Have to say, was terribly impressed, what a powerful statement as to the ethos of the school and the pride in the country.

This sense of being impressed continued through the day.  Was taken around by the head boy and head girl, Arthur and Roseanne, two people to watch out for as leaders in Jamaica in the future.  Also had the opportunity to meet with a group of pupils.  Actually, bit of a faux pas here.  On my schedule it said, "lyming and rapping with selected students."  Now, I know that the verb 'to lyme' means to hang out, talk, discuss, etc.  So when I saw this I thought, "Great, have learnt a bit about Reggae music, now a chance to learn a rap or two."  So when the pupils came in, I said, "Ah, so you're the musicians, then."  They looked at me slightly puzzled, clearly wanting to be polite but not quite sure what to say.  To discover that 'rap' in this context does not mean rap music but to discuss, learn, talk.  Left feeling somewhat daft by this, but the pupils didn't seem to mind.

Did a couple of my favourite exercises with them, one which connects up number to algebra nicely, the other which is acting out various graphical forms.  Then spoke to them about their experiences in mathematics.  Ardenne is actually very selective, and what the pupils had to say mirrors, I think, what pupils in UK selective schools might say - very appreciative of the opportunities provided, possibly at times feel that the teaching is directed towards those at the very top.  Have to say, very impressed by the thoughtfulness of the comments and the maturity demonstrated.

Had lunch with the principal, Mr Claude Ellis, and the two vice principals, as I talked about my impressions from Jamaica and the kind of things I'm wanting to communicate from the UK, particularly structured lessons and having clear lesson objectives.  What a privilege to have this kind of dialogue with school leaders with such a strong desire that their students should achieve highly in mathematics and across the curriculum areas.

So, Topaz, many thanks for organising the day.  It was great meeting you in your place of work, your colleagues and pupils.  I will not forget the response to the national anthem, and look forward to hearing it many times in the future, not least in the forthcoming Olympic Games.  Hope my compatriots will understand when I say that I know who I will be cheering on.

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