Thursday, 6 September 2018

Jamaican Educator Passionate About Inclusivity in the Classroom

By Neil Armstrong

Photo contributed   Andrew B. Campbell (Dr. ABC), author of The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom published in July 2018.

A Jamaica-born educator in Toronto, Canada has written a new book that he hopes will lead to more inclusive classrooms for LGBT students in Jamaica.

In “The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” Andrew Campbell, a researcher and lecturer of diversity studies in education shares the experiences of gay males in Jamaica on their formal schooling experiences through reflection.

Campbell, a graduate of the University of Toronto with a PhD. in educational leadership and diversity and inclusive studies is passionate about “preparing educators and all stakeholders to increase their cultural competence so that no child is excluded from the teaching and learning process, and our schools become truly inclusive spaces.”

“There’s a lack of LGBT literature that focuses on the Jamaican experience,” says Campbell, noting that he teaches four online courses in Jamaica and Canada on issues that deal with inclusion and diversity.

He says LGBT is just one of those issues and like any other topic there is a lack of literature on such matters, including disability, sex education, and others.

“As an educator, I’ve always believed my advocacy is part of my work and so I always say what can I do with it. I have to use it to further the work. And so for me, I want to create books.”

Campbell says this is the first of several books that he will be writing that will focus on LGBT issues in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

He says when he was growing up in Jamaica there was no literature and everything that he googled was of the American experience so this is the reason the book is necessary.

Another reason for the book, says Campbell, is the lack of a counter-narrative and he is working on another book that will examine how the media in Jamaica portray the stories of LGBT people.

In his discourse analysis, he has already collected over 130 newspaper articles from 2002-2018 and less than “five per cent is written by LGBT people so the narrative is always negative.”

He says there are a lot of stories to be told and he is encouraging others to tell their stories.

He wants his book to “affirm, inspire LGBT young people to say hey, what I’m going through is not new, somebody went through it and this person came out and this person handled it.”

He said the 121 people whose quotations are featured in the book are success stories who still have their struggles.

Chapter 11 is dedicated to educators because the Mico Teachers College-trained academic wants them to understand “that these students are in your class and your job is to engage them, and engaging is more than math and writing. Engaging is getting to know who the students are.”

An educator for 22 years, Campbell says teachers have to understand that they have a job to engage all children.

He hopes that as a result of publishing this book there will be opportunities to speak at conferences, to educators and the ministry of education about how to be more inclusive and to grow in cultural competency and diversity.

Campbell said he included questions in the book to challenge the thinking and practice of educators.

He teaches teacher training and two courses on diversity online for the University of the West Indies and says when he started in 2011, students pushed back against topics such as disability, gender and mental health.

Seven years later, he has seen a change in how teachers respond to those courses so he has hope in the Jamaican education system and in “the capital and cultural competency of our teachers to educate our LGBT students.”

His research focuses on LGBT issues in Jamaica, teacher performance evaluation, culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy, social media in education, and online education.

Campbell says his book is not just about gay people but he is calling on all teachers to be inclusive, generally, and to raise their level of inclusion.

He thinks there should be a review of the concept of guidance in school and how it is done with a view to guidance departments helping all students.

“The Invisible Student in the Jamaican Classroom,” which is self-published, was launched on August 2 at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies during a conference of Pride JA, an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Jamaica.

[This story was published in the North American Weekly Gleaner, Aug. 30-Sept. 5, 2018.]

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