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EASY MAGAZINE: Janet Dash is all about Frankly Speaking


EASY MAGAZINE: Janet Dash is all about Frankly Speaking

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Janet Dash-Harris is an inspirational woman. She can energise you and make you feel that you can accomplish everything you want to.

She also loves to talk.

Listening to her tell the story of how her first book came about was motivation enough to do something or just do more, particularly if you are one of those people who need a shove (not a nudge) to make things happen.

On a warm and sunny day, the teacher, wife, mother, and author of Frankly Speaking sat down with EASY magazine and spoke freely about her life in Barbados and the Cayman Islands where she and her husband Lincoln have been living since 1998, as a teacher sharing the differences and similarities in the classroom, and her schooldays at The Alleyne School.

She is not the kind of person to hold her thoughts and feelings – she certainly is frank.

A month after her mother Gwen died in March 2015, Janet started sharing Bible verses, reaching out to others from her depths of despair. It wasn’t about seeking solace per se . . . it was more of a catharsis.

“In April I created a broadcast list of some of my WhatsApp contacts and I started to send a verse a day from The Bible. I think I was encouraging myself by encouraging them; it was very cathartic for me.

“By June, these one verses a day turned into full length devotions and some people were putting them on the Internet, some were reading them and saying, ‘This is really very good. Why don’t you consider putting them in a book’ and that’s exactly what I did. Whatever you see in the book, they were all WhatsApp messages,” she said.

After finding a publisher, she sent three of her messages via email and to use a cliché the rest is history.

The book was launched on March 13, the eve of the first anniversary of her mother’s death, and two months later, in May, she had sold all 400 copies containing 120 “matter-of-fact and thought-provoking readings”. The “catchy topics” in her first published work can be read by anybody.

“I have one entitled be a D.O.G (devoted only to God) Christian, He’s the P.I.T.S which is actually he’s the peace in the storm. Many of them are autobiographical in nature as I start out by talking about an experience I’ve had and then I weaved and infused the word of God into it.

“It was kind of easy for me. Let me say I co-authored the book, the Holy Spirit authored the book because I used to wake up in the morning and get these revelations.

“As I did my devotions I would get these ideas and jot them down. Now that I’m reading the book and I’m thinking ‘Did I write that? Did I actually write this’ because this beyond what I thought I would have been able to do,” Janet said.

Frankly Speaking, said the Spanish teacher, is written in an easy to read conversational style.

“The book is supposed to encourage people. First of all, people will identify because there’s something in there about sporting, about auditing, perfume, cooking, Chalky Mount and the pottery.

“So when people read it they are able to identify and I’ve put them in a situation where this happens to you, this is real life and this is how God is in the midst of whatever you’re going through – good or bad.

“More than anything else I want people to identify with the situation. This applies to me and be encouraged by it. When you’re encouraged you have hope so don’t think you’re in a situation where it’s all hopeless. You can smile as it’s also to bring humour when you read something, such as Tough but Good. The first two chapters are about diagnoses that both my husband and I had from the doctor,” she said.

Before heading to Cayman, she taught for 12 years at the West Terrace Primary School and for a year at the Parkinson Memorial School. Before she retires from the profession she would like to end her career at a primary school because “the children are, to me, so lovable, loving, and sweet”.

She said she had “good experiences” at the St James school and she got involved in several aspects of the school.

“At my school [Clifton Hunter High School] I do food hampers for Christmas. I just like to do things that make people smile.”

Although she got into teaching “for the holiday,” one year she had what some considered a “weak group” who did well in the Common Entrance Exam.

“That really encouraged me to think that don’t feel so fussy if you’ve got a bright group . . . . It is when you get the children who people don’t think will succeed and they do beyond their wildest dream that makes teaching so worthwhile,” Janet said.

When she looks back at her schooldays and read what teachers wrote in her report or said about her, it wasn’t flattering. Comments include “talkative”, and “she would do better if she concentrated on her own affairs”. She said cheekily she was not malicious in Bajan parlance but she was “acutely aware of what was going on around me”.

“Growing up, Ms Kathy Harper-Hall who I call mum will tell you that I fought a lot. I lost the fights too. When we came from England to Barbados, it really was so different because I was coming to a place I had never visited before and coming into school, I’m not sure the teachers were ready for me because in England you’re allowed to express yourself in schools. I just had this gift of the gab. I grew up around people who were from the old school and children were seen and not heard.

“I must admit that when I look back and see the punishments meted out to me growing up, you couldn’t risk those kinds of punishments today. If the teacher said it was so, you were punished. There were times when I was punished fairly and justifiably and there were times unfairly and the punishment bordered on child abuse but I believe all of those experiences helped to make me who I am today and also helped to make me the kind of teacher I am today. So I can identify with the student who gives problems and the student who is prone to answer back,” she said.

It’s no surprise that book number two will be for teens.

“My publisher said I should consider doing one for children and I’ve been working on it. . . . . I’ve decided to specifically do one for teenagers. I’ve got the topics and it’s going to be about 100 messages for teenagers about stuff like catfish, and Pokemon. I will take topics and work the word of God in it.

“The Holy Spirit will guide me just like how He guided me with the [Frankly Speaking],” Janet said. (GBM)