Today was a big day for me here in Jamaica. After arriving in Ocho Rios from Kingston last night I found it hard to sleep. It might not be the cool thing to say but I was experiencing a bit of anxiety over having to present my paper the next day.
I felt like I was prepared. I had done an excessive amount of due diligence and felt I could do this paper in my sleep, and the way I was feeling after the late drive across the country was quickly making that a possibility. Knowing your prepared doesn’t prevent you from battling with your own thoughts.
The title of my paper is “Storytelling as Technology: A Culturally Centered Approach to Techniques for Progressive Instruction with an Emphasis on Global Learning.” Here’s a link to the entire paper.
If you’d like, you can download the entire paper here as a pdf.
The morning started with the a good breakfast but the incessant, nagging thoughts about presenting my paper kept me from fully enjoying it.
It’s funny looking back now as I type this blog from my hotel room. There I was this morning sitting across from one of the most amazing ocean views that the island of Jamaica has to offer and all I could think about was the structure of my presentation. Instead of listening to the birds chirping above my head during breakfast, I was focused on whether or not I had completed enough analysis of each of the issues covered in my paper.
Ok… let me fast forward.
This section of the conference was being held at The Ocho Rios Baptist Church, in their community room. There were two schools invited to attend, one college and one high school. I was very pleased with the number of people present, especially those from the college because they were all young people working towards their degrees in education.
I sat at the back of the room as each of the presenters scheduled before me went up. My nervousness subsided but it was replaced by a concern for the attendees. They had been sitting for a long while and the majority of them were young.
I made a quick, command decision to discard every bit of my well-honed presentation and replace it with something that might be more engaging for the audience.
I have to admit that it hurt throwing out the presentation I had painstakingly labored over for hours, days and months. Yes, it actually hurt my heart but I know that I must “speak to each according to her ability to understand.” This was not the audience for a purely academic rant on the virtues of my cutting edge dialectics.
I switched gears and engaged them in the art form of my paper, Jaliyaa. We sang, I danced, they laughed, we chanted and then we got comfortable enough for my story to begin. I demonstrated how the ancient West African craft of Jaliyaa fuses movement, music and narrative into an entertaining, but educational presentation.
By the time I ended I was very pleased with the decision to change up the presentation of my paper and tailor what I did to the audience that was present.
When I stepped outside I was affirmed by a large group of aspiring educators who followed me out the door. It was a gift to see the smiles on their faces and feel their enthusiasm for what I had just done. These young people were excited and the fact that I had something to do with creating that excitement had me feeling re-energized.
This was a scholarly and brilliant collection of young people. They pelted me with challenging questions and enlightening insights. It was a joy for me to introduce them to Walter Rodney and engage them about Marcus Garvey. I could not have dreamed up a better collection of kindred spirits if I had tried.
Once again, hugs galore, pictures taken all around with everyone and I even had some of them asking me for my autograph. Sometimes I wonder when I get this kind of treatment, “Do I really need to return to the United States?”
When the conference closed for the day I wasn’t ready to leave. The youth continued engaging me as other adults were trying to pull them away to their bus.
I don’t know how many careers there are that are as affirming as mine, but I thank the young men and women I met today in Jamaica for a day filled with positivity.