Not many students will cheer after learning that a particular teacher will continue to be in charge of their education in the new school year. But that was the case for a third-form class at St George’s College when literature teacher Simon Brown told them that he would once again be their instructor for the 2022/2023 academic year.
A video posted to the 36-year-old teacher’s TikTok account showed the unbridled excitement on his students’ faces as they hugged each other after he walked into the classroom.
Commenting on the class’ reaction, Brown told the Jamaica Observer that he was actually in charge of those students since they were in first form.
“I had them all online, so I was able to see them growing. It is actually very interesting to see that one class maturing over the years. But what happened was last year I told them it’s very unlikely that I’ll have them again. So when I found out that I would get them for literature this year, I didn’t tell them until I surprised them,” he said,
Brown explained that it is his duty to ensure that the students are not only showing up to classes prepared, but also understand the full concept of the lessons.
“Some of the things that I believe I have done is that I try to do things a little bit different and a little more relatable. For example, for my literatures in English class we are working on a podcast where we will review the books and poems that we are about to do,” Brown said.
“A few years ago I actually started a writers’ club and took them to poetry meetings. Other things that I believe I do is that I constantly try to relate the material that is on the syllabus to things that they understand, that they can relate to. I find it very integral to compare poetry to dancehall and reggae so that way the content becomes relatable,” he added.
Brown explained that he would give his students assignments that require them to watch a movie and compare that movie to the book being studied. He said he finds that these types of assignments garnered more enthusiasm from his students.
However, Brown stated that he does not believe the Jamaican education system understands the importance of using modern literature on the syllabus.
“I just think, in general, we need to do a better job of getting them to know Caribbean authors, modern authors and poets, because if they are doing the same books that I was doing [while in high school], they are going to be less motivated to connect to it,” the St George’s old boy said.
He explained that he is able to dedicate extra time to his students because he is now only teaching part-time, as he is also a videographer.
“I have been teaching at George’s since 2008, but I was full-time up to 2016. At least, for me, I have fewer classes. I do think that more teachers would love to be as involved, [but] the system and the pay that they have is so stressful it even forces them to pick up a next job,” he said.
One of his students, Payton Larmond, told the Observer that he is grateful to Brown because he makes classes fun.
“Sometimes midway in the class he would give some jokes, and if the students are sleeping he would video them and wake them up and show them and then the whole class starts laughing,” Larmond said, adding that they would sometimes bond over their shared love of football.
Giving Brown a perfect 10 rating, Larmond said that he would like Brown to continue teaching him for his remaining time at St George’s College because the “classes would be more fun and I believe that I would continue to learn a lot from him”.
Sixth-former Carine Jean praises Brown’s teaching style because he makes every lesson relatable.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve experienced it throughout my high school career. He loves to tie in current affairs with whatever is being related in the book, and that is something that’s really enjoyable for us as students. So, it’s easy for us to make links and connect it, because it’s stuff that we see in our everyday society, even though initially when you read the book or the poem — especially if it’s a classic or an old piece of literature — you wouldn’t think that it would relate to us now in our Caribbean society. The classes are just more fun and interactive and that’s something I really like about him,” she said.