An entire class of 33 students at Wolmer’s Girls’ School has entered fifth form, the traditional exam year, having already bagged grade ones at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics. But more than that, all 33 attained straight ‘A’ profiles, after only one year of preparation.
The girls are: Danae Anderson, Gardine Brooks, Britney Brown, Tamoy Campbell, Shadine Cunningham, Kimoy-Marie Douglas, Giselle Downer, Deandra Dyte, Jada Francis, Alyssa Graham, Shemaelia Greensword, Shanice Hardie, Howiecia Hunter, Toni-Ann Hunter, Nichaelia Hutton, Michelle Jackson, Lauri-Ann Johnson, Chevonna Lewis, Dacia Lyttle, Mikayla McFarlane, Tiana Morgan, Simone Murray, Kelsey Randal, Annieka Reno, Jhonniel Skellton, Ashli Smith, Tannekee Strachan, Lorianne Thomas, Kimari Tyrell, Shedeeka Watson, Samantha Williams, Jheanel Whyte, and Oneilia Yearde.
Head of the Mathematics Department at the school, Master Teacher Ava Brown-Mothersill explained that the students were hand-picked to be involved in a pilot programme that sought to bridge the gap between CSEC mathematics and mathematics at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level. The three-year project has the girls prepare for and sit CSEC mathematics in their fourth form year, additional mathematics in their fifth form year, and pure mathematics at CAPE.
“We wanted to bridge the gap between (CSEC) maths and CAPE. They weren’t doing as well as we wanted them to in the CAPE and it’s just because of the great difference between CSEC maths and CAPE and the step up to get it. So, we said, ‘Okay, let us try and do the maths in fourth form’,” said Mothersill who, along with Principal Colleen Montague and third year coordinator Chester Allman, came up with the idea.
She says that they could not have wished for a better result. The level of achievement, in her mind, was never a question; it was the quality of the ones that were of concern to her.
“I feel very, very good. Simple words will do for me. It could not have been better… They did it, and it’s just super. Well done, girls!” she expressed in congratulations.
“They are special, consistent, hard workers. They are well-rounded girls. They are independent girls. To have that combination in a batch of 33 girls, that’s power,” she said of the students.
She also had kudos for their teacher, Lance McFarlane, the other members of the department, as well as the administrative body of Wolmer’s Girls’.
“Mr McFarlane carried the anchor leg of a four-leg relay, but I want to give kudos to the other members of the relay and that would be the other members of the department,” she said.
Meanwhile, McFarlane, who has been teaching at Wolmer’s Girls’ for the past six years, said he never doubted for a second that the ladies would have all obtained grade ones, and made that very clear from the very outset and throughout the preparation process.
“From the first class we had with him, he was like, ‘All 33 of you are going to get distinctions’,” said Mikayla McFarlane (no relation).
The teacher would also name a WhatsApp group in which he shared information with the girls “33 Distinctions” and would use that name in any and all references to the group.
“In teaching, a lot has to do with how well you relate to your students, and you have to be confident for them to be confident,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “In calling them that, they take it on and they become more and more confident. They also know that that is the expectation. And I showed them that it’s not an unrealistic expectation, and didn’t put pressure on them.”
He reports it was a combination of diligent students, class control, everyone involved working toward a single objective, and his experience preparing students in one year through his business Sophomore Academics that accounted for the huge success.
Sophomore Academics is McFarlane’s advanced extra class programme that he and business partner Duane Burke started in 2010. They boast much success, with most of their students attaining passes in CSEC after a one-year accelerated programme.
What makes the success of the Wolmer’s Girls’ stand out even more is the fact that, save eight extra hours in the second term of school, the girls received the same four-hour-per-week instruction time as the students who were preparing to sit the exams in two years.
“I had to do everything in those four hours per week, and I had to do it in such a way that it doesn’t come across as stressful, because you don’t want to turn them off of the subject. And all of those things are crucial. You have to know how to relate to them, motivate them, inspire them,” said McFarlane.
“You can’t be boring. So class has to be action-packed, class has to be fun, but you’re still managing the class. Sometimes we pause and we reason about life; find out what’s going on in society and their opinions on it so they gain even more confidence in you. So you become more than a teacher; you become a role model, you become a preacher, you become big brother. It’s a team at the end of the day,” he continued.
They also had a Saturday review class and were invited for a Sunday session at Sophomore Academics.
Another preparation technique involved doing and reviewing CSEC papers over the past 10 years. The teacher also created
YouTube playlists of certain topics and shared them via WhatsApp. The students would make their own notes and take their questions to class. They also utilised CSEC exam reports to point out the areas which needed focus.
“We always had to bear in mind the pace at which we were going. Fast enough to complete the syllabus, but slow enough that even the weakest person in the class is not too pressed,” he explained.
McFarlane also noted that they also had to battle with lack of confidence from some parents at the outset, as well as some students getting distracted by internal exams very close to their external exams. Even so, he never lost faith.
“In August, when the results came out, they started sending me screenshots of their results, I wasn’t surprised; I just started counting. When I never heard from some of them, my business partner said, ‘Look like some never got the distinction so they are afraid to WhatsApp you’. I said, ‘No man, they’re probably overseas or can’t access their results.’ When I got an e-mail from Wolmer’s, and saw that all got straight ‘A’ profiles, I just smiled,” McFarlane reminisced.
For the students, some admitted to being somewhat anxious going into the exam, but they said the motivation from their teacher made them confident.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was just anxious to get into the exam and see what the paper was like. I was excited and confident because I got the motivation from my teacher and my parents. So I was just ready and raring to go to execute,” said Shanice Hardie.
They think the achievement has given them an edge over the other students.
“It helps because we are going to do additional mathematics next year. Even though additional mathematics is a more complex, having experience with another CXC subject will help,” said Mikaylia.
Hardie says the group of girls is exceptional and that it was hard work and diligence that made them so.
“Of course, they are exceptional! They understand the topics well. And they followed the teacher’s instructions. If they had problems they made sure that when they come to class they were answered, and they understood what the answer was and how to get the answer so they could apply it to other questions,” Hardie told Career & Education.
“Nothing is impossible if you put in the hard work. And if you fail 100 times, try again 100 times, because you can get better. We are not very different from the other students, so I think if another person doesn’t get similar results, it’s because they are not willing to put in the effort or enough effort to get it,” she said.
Article by: The Jamaica Observer