Imagine a childhood filled with people telling you that your future will suffer just because you may not be as fortunate as other children to access particular resources. Imagine, as well, that the negative proclamations over your life occur because of the community you live in or that your parents may not be from an affluent background.
That is part of the story for the Lasco/MoEY/JTC Teacher of the Year for 2022, Jody Brown and it acts as fuel for his reasons for spearheading a recently held a Boys’ Symposium in St. Thomas on May 31. The event serves as a tool to help boys who participate to become more rounded and motivated to be the best version of themselves in childhood and beyond.
Brown credits teachers from his childhood who ensured that negative self-fulfilling prophecy did not come to pass. So, the establishment of the symposium, in some way, is a representation for the boys that their teachers care and want the best for them.
“I grew up where I was always stigmatised as being not good enough to achieve the goals that I had set out to achieve. Even in high school, I was told that I was not good enough to be in the science class,” he said, in an interview with Our Today.
“I had a teacher in high school, Ms. Duncan, who pushed me to move pass whatever negative things people had to say about me. I also benefited from mentors in the church, namely Sis Bev and Sis Greaves, who took me under their wings and helped to guide and encourage me to become the best version of myself. Funny enough, because they were teachers, it’s possible that they were my motivation to become an educator,” he added.
Brown, along with some of his colleagues, formed a committee which planned and executed the Symposium for 30 male students from 10 primary level schools across the parish of St. Thomas. The event was held under the theme, ‘Today’s Boys, Tomorrow’s Men’.
The 2022 Lasco Teacher of the Year, at 38 years of age, has been an educator for 16 years and currently teaches grade five at the Morant Bay Primary School.
“I have realised that there are a lot of boys in the primary school system who might end up in situations like mine where little to no one looks out for them. This is often because of their address as well as the perception that they are not the brightest set of boys,. They may also not be the cleanest and are not necessarily the set of boys that school administrators would want to take on a school trip or take out of the school compound,” he explained.
“The thing, though, is that some of these boys are extremely smart. However, because of circumstances beyond their control, they get wrongly stereotyped and often miss out on having a role model they can look up to emulate,” Brown highlighted.
The 2022 Lasco Teacher of the Year said he wanted to focus on boys at the primary school level as he noticed that the high schools within the parish of St. Thomas received more attention than any other.
He said that he once taught at the high school level in the parish and, “realised that a number of the children who matriculated from the primary level carried seemingly unexplainable behavioural issues and required intervention and change in various aspects of their lives”. He shared that it proved to be difficult to begin interventions at that point in time. However, he believes that, “if we can get them from the grassroots, it becomes a lot easier when they reach high school.”
He added that he chose the target group because at the primary stage, interventions to stem behavioural, deportment and academic concerns would be easier to address.
Brown shared that he left the secondary system and went to teach at the Morant Bay Primary School which made him happy because he now had the opportunity “to interact with these youngsters from a younger age, build a rapport and become a role model for them.”
Having won the 2022 Lasco Teacher of the Year, Brown shared that he decided on the Boys’ Symposium as one project to positively impact children in his parish.
“I don’t want them to grow up and end up in situations where they doubt themselves and believe that they are not good enough to hold and own their space in the world. We want to empower these boys to become better, have self confidence and to realise that there is actually good in them. We want them to know that they can be good boys and they can make a positive impact in society,’ said Brown.
“So, the Boys’ Symposium is just one of the ways in which I think that I can reach these boys. However, it is not just a one time activity for the sake of doing something for the benefit of boys in the parish. This is an initiative I want to become an annual occurrence in Child’s Month. We were strategic and targeted boys in the guidance and counselling intervention programmes across the parish. Guidance counsellors would have worked with me to select these boys from the various schools to be part of the symposium,” explained Brown.
He shared that 30 boys were chosen for the first staging and the hope is that more boys will be able to benefit for future staging of the symposium. He highlighted that the plan is to establish a mentorship programme so that boys who participate in the symposium will get the chance to be go through a mentorship programme to further help with their development.
Brown shared that, “from the mentorship programme, the committee will be working to provide a scholarship to one of the most improved boys who participated in the symposium. The scholarship will be officially awarded at their school graduation. Since it is the first time that we’ll be providing a scholarship, we might identify just one scholarship winner. As time progresses, we should be able to provide more. For now, scholarship amount will be at least J$15,000,” he said.
Brown shared with Our Today that the eligibility criteria for the scholarship has “not yet finalised or set in stone. However, we will look at the boys who have shown improvement in their behaviour and who have improved in their academic performance since being part of the symposium.”
“Outside of the symposium which we executed with the support of sponsors, everything is new and still in a sort of a first attempt approach. So, there is no official name for the mentorship programme or the scholarship. We are working with Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) because they have a boys mentorship programme and so, we will be in collaboration with them to get our mentorship programme off the ground,” he highlighted.
In addition to the annual boys’ symposium, mentorship, and scholarship, Brown highlighted that he has interest in establishing a music band for the boys at the Morant Bay Primary School.
He also mentioned that his committee hopes to also provide assistance to male teachers through a mentorship programme for them and said, “I am in dialogue with the Jamaica Teacher’s Association (JTA) from St. Thomas to do a mentorship programme for our male teachers in the system,” he said.
Brown, who actually had aspirations to become a surgeon and save lives, says that he is forever grateful for his parents who motivated him to pursue his dreams. He also shared how grateful his is for his wife, Devmarie, who, he says, supports him in all his undertakings.
Prior to winning the award for teacher of the year, Brown considered quitting teaching but he stressed that his reason was purely administrative and had nothing to do with the students because he loves teaching and he loves his students.
“God has opened a lot of doors for me and my church family has been very supportive. I think that God has put this in the right space and time to remind me that I was good enough because I felt, at one point, that I was useless in my capacity as a teacher,” he shared.
The future of his youth and community development work looks bright as he shared that many schools in St. Thomas have contacted him since the execution of the Boys’ Symposium. They have expressed interest in participating next year.
“Hopefully in 2024 we can get more sponsorship so that we can invite more schools to participate, therefore increasing the number of boys who participate so that we can increase the interaction across the parish and yield a greater impact,” he said.
Connect with Jody Brown on Instagram @jody_cal_brown or via email at [email protected]
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