IN THE CANDID CORNER: Through the years
“. . . the time of my departure is at hand; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith. Henceforth . . . ” – 2 Timothy 6-8.
Well, I have not quite finished my course, since I do not retire officially before August 31. It is, however, appropriate for me to acknowledge that what I have been doing for the past 41 years of my life is about to make a significant shift. Forty-one years is a long time to spend in one career or profession but when it deemed to be your calling, your passion, your niche, it yet seems like a short time.
I am happy to have been part of what is easily the most important profession in the world.
Fifty-four years ago after finishing my first day at St Jude’s Primary School, my mother (God bless her soul) said that when asked about my day, I said that I wanted to be a headmaster. On reflection, I was speaking prophetically and as such I give God thanks for ferrying me safely across the rubicon of the years with their highs and lows and ebbs and flows.
The journey began at St John’s Mixed School looking across to the historic St John’s Parish Church from whose sundial there is panoramic view beyond to Ragged Point in the east and back north westward to Farley Hill.
The undulating plains of the East Coast, saw me moving, after completing four exciting years at University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, down to St Margaret’s Composite through “Redlegs” country where for two years I worked with Gweneth Harewood and her staff in classrooms, whose complexion provided a unique ethnic and racial admixture that made teaching very interesting.
Having been born in the coastless parish of St George, and after taking a bride from the below the then Cable & Wireless earth station at Bath, the train of my professional career saw my wife and I traversing the verdant plains of St John and St George and mounting the Christ Church ridge to reside and put up stake just minutes from the Grantley Adams International monument and a stone’s throw from the white sandy beaches of the south.
As our seed came forth, Vauxhall Composite saw me spending over a decade under the mentoring eyes of one Clarkson Brewster from whose professional groin many leaders sprang. The passion for leadership swung me back to St George where I got a fleeting initiation into the corridors of management as senior teacher.
Feeling that I had outlived the classroom and that my potential was not adequately tapped, I equipped myself for administration and it was not long before St Lawrence Composite whetted my appetite for leadership by giving me another bite of the cherry of management.
My biggest break came when I was given the challenge to take up the principalship of the inner City school that produced National Hero Samuel Jackman Prescod. I was blessed when an even greater challenge of not just turning the institution around, but of providing leadership of the country’s technology thrust as the precursor to Edutech or what was called the Education Sector Enhancement programme.
After outstanding achievement in both academics and music, and after seven years of working with my staff to lighten the darkness of inner city minds, I was ready for transition to another level.
After 30 years of moulding minds, building character and shaping personalities at the primary level and advocating and agitating through professional organisations and trade unions, I successfully applied for my first post ever at the secondary level.
Eleven years later, on my imminent retirement, I consider the experience at the Garrison Secondary, now Graydon Sealy Secondary, as the highlight of my professional career as an educator. Along my journey of 41 years, I interfaced with some of the best brains and minds in the industry. I remain eternally indebted to encounters with John Cumberbatch, Stanley Mayers, Daphne Millington, Rudolph Goodridge, Kathleen Drayton, Dr Anthony Layne, Sir Keith Hunte and Dr Wendy Griffith-Watson.
In the trenches, I valued my interface with the scores of teachers with whom I worked across the system including Ralph Jemmott, Oscar Holder, Stephen Blanchard, Lucille Goddard, Dr Dan Carter, Megan Batson, Stephen Gittens, Osbert McClean, Michelle Cadogan and Sandra King, all of whom constituted the National Forum on Education.
Through this body we provided advocacy, professional discourse and teacher recognition mechanisms. I look back with immense pleasure and satisfaction and give God thanks for the years.
• Matthew Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education and a social commentator.