Literature teachers trained through Caribbean Poetry Workshop

Secondary school literature teachers across the island are being exposed to the work of great Caribbean Poets through a “Caribbean poetry workshop”.

The two -day workshop which commenced on Monday March 25th, at the Public Service Training Centre (PSTC) in Roseau is organized by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus.

The series of workshops which was launched in St. Vincent and the Grenadines last year is designed to give teachers a better appreciation for the work of Caribbean poets and to expose them to new skills in teaching the subject.

Coordinator of the Caribbean Poetry Workshop Dr.Sandra Robinson in addressing the opening ceremony says based on the sub- standard performance of Caribbean students in the subject, there is a need to enhance the knowledge of secondary school English teachers hence the need for such workshops.

“An important aim of these workshop activities is to enhance the knowledge and teaching of Caribbean poetry among secondary school teachers and to promote achievement through the learning and teaching of Caribbean Poetry in schools in the Caribbean in a way which acknowledges the importance of poetry in language development.”

Dominica’s Chief Education Officer Stephenson Hyacinth says this training tie in with efforts by the Ministry of Education to ensure that teachers who teach English literature are adequately trained.

“We recognize that there is a dearth of trained literature teachers at our schools and we have been working with our schools to increase this capacity. Undoubtedly this workshop will further expose our teachers to the knowledge, skills and approaches to the teaching of literature, thus enabling our students to develop a greater appreciation for the subject” Hyacinth noted.

In outlining the many benefits of studying the subject of literature, Hyacinth encouraged the teachers participating in the Caribbean Poetry workshop to take advantage of the new skills which they will be exposed to and be prepared to use the knowledge gained on their return to the classroom.

“It is my hope that all of you teachers will embrace this opportunity and make the best use of this workshop. We hope that you will go back to your schools and your classroom with a burning desire and passion to try some if not all of the new strategies and techniques that you will learn from this workshop.”

Senior Education Officer in the Curriculum, measurement and Evaluation Unit Nicholas Goldberg also endorsed the workshop.

“It is my hope that this workshop will open the eyes of our teachers to the power of the poem and motivate them to discover the Caribbean poets and better appreciate their work. To be a teacher of literature you must read literature; similarly to be a teacher of poetry you must read poetry. Further you need to practice your trade and write poetry”.

Mr. Goldberg noted that poetry should be stimulating and exciting. He is hoping that the workshop in Dominica would be a catalyst that will set fire to the imagination of both teachers and their students.

In 2012 one hundred and six students wrote literature exams at CXC level with seventy-eight of those being successful. Officials say this figure represents less than ten percent of the entire fifth form cohort.

Hyacinth told the opening ceremony that the Ministry of Education as part of its strategic plan has been working on new strategies to increase the number of students writing the English B or literature exams at the CXC level.

“As the Ministry we emphasize the importance of an effective literature programme at all our schools because we strongly believe that literature provides students with the opportunity to be creative, to think critically, to think outside the box, to appreciate reading, to be a character in a play or in a story they have read. Literature enables students to develop an appreciation not only for reading but also reciting and acting.”

Dominica’s Education Minister Hon. Petter Saint Jean challenged teachers to think of creative and enjoyable ways to make the learning of literature and poetry exciting.

“The traditional views of literacy once meant basic competence in reading and writing. Today it’s all about usage and comprehension skills in speaking, listening and viewing and of course in a technologically advanced global environment. It now means being able to communicate through a variety of media including visual arts, drama, multi-media performances. As a teacher you must begin to consider how your teaching of poetry fits into this context to satisfy the new modern requirements of literacy development”.

The Caribbean Poetry workshop is being facilitated by professors from the department of Language, Linguistics and Literature at UWI Cave Hill Campus.