I have very fond memories of my formative educational development. I attended the local primary and secondary schools on Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the island on which I was born and raised. Upon completing secondary school, two of my teachers encouraged me to enter the teaching profession. At age seventeen, I left my homeland to attend Shortwood Teachers’ College in Kingston, Jamaica, where I pursued the Certificate in Teacher Education programme in Secondary Education, specializing in English and History. Feeling the need to broaden my subject content, I returned to Jamaica five years later to pursue the Bachelor of Arts degree Programme, majoring this time in History, with a minor in English.
After teaching for several years at two of our local high schools, and serving as Vice-principal at one of those schools for three years, I was promoted to the position of Curriculum Development Officer in the Department of Education. It was at that time that I recognized the need to sharpen my knowledge and skills in this highly specialized area. I applied to, and was accepted at, the University of Bristol to pursue the MEd degree programme in Curriculum Development in 1994. Exactly ten years later I again entered the doors of the Graduate School of Education, Bristol, to read for the Ed. D degree in Educational Management.
In pursuit of the MEd programme, Bristol was one of three institutions to which I had applied. However, the response from Bristol was prompt, very encouraging and welcoming. Based on my outstanding performance in the Master’s programme, especially the quality of research undertaken for the dissertation, for which I attained a distinction, I received a letter of invitation from the Head of School to pursue doctoral studies. However, financial constraints, at the time, hampered me from pursuing the programme immediately.
In undertaking doctoral work, one of my greatest challenges was balancing my studies with a very intense and engaging full-time job, church, civic and domestic responsibilities, especially in view of the fact that I had to travel hundreds of miles from where I permanently reside to get to Bristol. I constantly reminded myself that nothing worth having comes easily.
At the Graduate School of Education, Dr Roger Garrett and Professor Michael Crossley were two lecturers who had greatest influence on me. Without a doubt, these scholarly and well-experienced gentlemen were my mentors. I took several courses with them and they served as my MEd and EdD dissertation supervisors respectively. Dr Garrett readily highlighted my strengths and made assignment preparation seem easy. Professor Crossley was encouraging, motivating and inquisitive. No thought could be half explored. He ensured that I crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s and forced me into a new writing style. Having studied English literature and creative writing at college and undergraduate level, and having had the opportunity to teach those two areas at the primary and secondary school level for a number of years, it was a challenge for me to write in the language of research, where simplicity and clarity superseded figurative discourse. Very little could be left to the imagination.
And then there was Jacqui Upcott, who worked in the administrative office. She was always willing to support and offer us advice on how challenges could be overcome. All three constantly inquired about the wellbeing of family and friends and the Turks and Caicos Islands generally.
The Graduate School of Education offered a pristine environment, one that was conducive to studying. Technological and other resources were readily accessible. The library staff were extremely supportive and cordial. It was evident that they enjoyed what they did and wanted students to succeed. Overtime, they knew students by name and even knew their area of specialization.
During my time at the Graduate School of Education I particularly enjoyed those courses which dealt with policy reform and development, probably due to the fact that they provided opportunities for the kind of research that would help my later on in my career. These were areas in which I needed more in-depth knowledge. The one setback was that, due to my part-time status, and my inability to secure longer study periods from my employer, I could not take advantage of the full range of guest lectures, seminars, conferences and social events offered and/or arranged by the school. Notwithstanding this, I had the great experience of studying with my husband, Hubert, a situation that made studying more enjoyable given that we were able to share ideas with each other.
One of my greatest educational experiences was defending my dissertation. It was a defining moment since it determined the end result of five years of intense work, countless times watching the night fall and morning dawn without a minute’s sleep, all in an effort to meet assignment deadlines and complete dissertation chapters. The experience, however, is one that could be relived because during the viva process, I was made to feel at ease from beginning to end. I knew that God was on my side, and that there were friends, family and colleagues who believed in me. The calm and reassuring advice of Professor Crossley lingered in my mind, “nobody knows your work better than you do. Defend it to the end”. Recognizing the challenges my country was facing both in recruiting and retaining teachers, I examined the topic: ‘Factors Impacting Upon Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Small States with Particular Reference to the Turks and Caicos Islands’. I not only enjoyed undertaking the research, but I also felt confident about what I had produced, and appreciated the importance of having explored an area that had practical value for the Ministry that had supported my studies.
Currently, I am assisting the Ministry of Education in their efforts in undertaking a national consultation on education, whilst happily enjoying life as a retiree. However, my next steps will take me along the writing pathway so that some of my knowledge and experiences might be further shared with others.
To any young person who may be contemplating walking in the path that I have, be assured that a career in education is extremely rewarding, and the Bristol Graduate School of Education that ranks very high in world leading research is the right institution to support and promote your ambitions. You have an opportunity to impact the lives of young people in very positive and dynamic ways, and even shape the destiny of your country.
Statistics show that the student dropout rate for a number of colleges and universities is relatively high. Financial constraints, personal tragedies, and difficulties balancing employment, family obligations and studies can be quite overwhelming at times. Leaving behind young children is heartbreaking. Challenges settling into a different cultural and learning environment, especially for those of riper years, can easily derail you. However, you must approach your studies with determination, enthusiasm and vitality, knowing that it will last only for a season, and the rewards at the end of the road are invaluable. Enjoy what you do, explore research already undertaken and create fresh ideas, and draw your own conclusions. Seek support from family and friends, and rely on a power greater than your own.
As I reflect on the collective experiences of my education and work, I can confidently say that I have no regrets for having chosen the paths that I have. The complementary combination of studies, and the rich social and cultural diversities in the Caribbean and in England, have enriched my life tremendously. The many friends that I made have helped me to more fully appreciate, love and respect the many nationalities here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We are one people, created in God’s image, and loved by him. To all of you I say thanks for being a part of my life and allowing me to be a part of yours.