The highlight of our vacation in Negril, Jamaica, was our visit to the West End Early Childhood School on a Sandals Foundation trip.  The school teaches 3, 4 and 5-year-olds all crammed into a several small rooms.  As we toured the school, we got a warm welcome in every classroom from excited bunches of kids.  We each worked with a group of three of the older ones at tiny tables on the back breezeway.

I read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen to my students, Chrisan, the bossy girl; Keira, the artistic girl; and Tyrone, the eager-to-please boy.  Keira was particular about the color of the crayons she used and no matter how small the object, she colored each one with multiple colors.  Tyrone grabbed the first crayon he could reach and quickly identified and colored an object that started with the letter “E.”  He hurried through each one so that he could be the first to identify the next one.  Chrisan worked efficiently and steadily while telling all of us what to do as she colored.

Chrisan, Keira and Tyrone

When I said, “Ya, Mon” in response to a question, Chrisan asked me, “Do you know how to speak properly?”  Knowing she’d heard that often from a mother trying to get her daughter to eschew slang, it was all I could do to suppress my laughter–but I managed to do it and simply said, “Yes, ma’am, I can.”

Wayne with his group

When I asked them the sound of the letter “E,” Chrisan started them all singing: “Every letter has a sound, every letter has a sound, every letter has a sound and the  sound of “B’ is ‘buh.'”  I praised them for that and asked again about the sound of the letter “E.”  Keira and Tyrone immediately told me but Chrisan wanted to make sure I understood that “B” was her favorite letter before she answered the question.

When the lesson was over, all the groups gathered together and sang a couple of songs then threw  their little arms around our legs.  I will never, ever forget their hugs or the precious smiles on their faces.