Remembering Teacher Percy and our journey into education

Bring back the old-time days…

Do you remember the primary school days when we sat in the dusty school yard under the tambrand, tree, the downs tree, the immortelle tree, the padoo tree, or whatever tree that was in the yard while teacher Percy preached hellfire and brimstone and brought the guava whip down on our backs?

A school teacher bonds with his students.

He also sat us down and read every Brer Nancy and Tar Baby story, he read every Aesop fable and every Hans Christian Anderson tale. He pranced and waved and brought limitless worlds to life on the dusty ground under the tree.

We had to read the newspaper that was on his desk every morning, we did a book report every month. The books for our report included Tom Sawyer, Kidnapped, Around the World in Eighty Days, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Charles Dickinson stories, all the classics—seemed like all we did was read and read and read.

And then we wrote, we did journals, wrote stories for penmanship, wrote poems, wrote songs. Every math problem was a word problem unless it was mental. Seemed like all we did after reading was writing and writing and writing.

We talked, we discussed, we sang, we danced in class, we did massive shows for Christmas, Eid, Indian Arrival Day, learned bhajans, built mas costumes for ole mas, learned Indian dance, best village dances, French and Spanish songs, and sayings.

Playtime…

Teacher Percy gave lectures to us like we were university students and we in turn had to stand in front of our classmates and extol on whatever subject matter we chose at that moment. I often thought that our teacher Percies (excuse my made-up plural) had a limitless pool of knowledge from around the world and we had little use of technology.

We played hard in the blazing sun: cricket, football, running races, marble pitch, hopscotch, jacks, morals, red over, spinning tops, hand clapping games where we named things and made-up silly rhymes and teacher Percy played hard with us and we played and played.

We learned how to stitch, we planted food crops, we mind fowl and rabbit—all this right there in the school yard and we cleaned the yard with cocoyea broom in primary school.

Blanchisseuse Primary School students enjoyed some SSFL Big 5 action on 20 February 2024 as Blanchisseuse Secondary whipped Moruga Secondary in Blanchisseuse.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

At secondary school, a vocational/trade subject or two was always encouraged: agriscience, economics/ cooking, typing, technical drawing, house wiring and so on; and we also minded a fowl or two.

In my house wiring class, I learned how to fix a fan and my class even helped with rewiring a primary school for our school project.

On our way home from school we kicked crapaud, got our kicks off each other and rang the rich neighbours’ bells, running off when they came out to see who was there.

Cunupia Government Primary School children enjoy an afternoon out.
Photo: OPM

Yes, sometimes we got into a scuffle or two.  We did not always do the most constructive things; at least it was better than kicking each other to death at the colosseum-translated today as the classroom in schools during the munera, while the other Romans stood, cheered on, and made videos.

Teacher Percy still got the necessary textbook work in, too. Before or after every textbook lesson we did a poem, a short story, or a song on the topic.

I remember planting my seed in the Styrofoam cup on a bed of toilet paper but I also remember the poem that we made up on the seed, the little flower, the baby tree.

An early science project…

Now, I did not attend a prestigious primary or secondary school, my teacher Percies taught in our regular run of the mill schools. I also spent part of my school days at Number One Mucurapo Road cow shed school, we called it. Teacher Percies at Mucurapo encouraged and did the same things that the others did.

At Costaatt, I had Mr Simon Lee, Mr Earl Best, Roddy Batchasingh, Mr Dial and others who were replicas of teacher Percy in some form or fashion. Make a guess. Who do you think was the best teacher Percy replica?

Ah riddle ah riddle ah ree the answer is in the question.

Author Otancia Noel is a Costaatt graduate.

So, moving along, reading, writing, song, dance, oral expression, hands on learning and literature have always played a big part in my life and from this I was taught to be articulate, to think critically, to comprehend, to gain a strong level of literacy, to focus, to acquire a wide range of knowledge and to be independent.

Now, as an educator I see in some of our schools’ poor literacy skills, poor comprehension, poor reading, poor writing, and a lack of critical thinking skills along with the violence that is spiraling out of control in our beloved nation.

In a world where we now have access to electricity, better technology, and magic at our fingertips we are lacking. Maybe—this is just my two pence to add to the ‘tory—we can try to go back to teacher Percy’s method or at least take a page or two from his book.

SAGHS students plant a tree during the Plastic Bag Reduction Campaign.
(Copyright Ministry of Public Administration)

To end, even for some of us who have not achieved any grand level of academic education we have become well-rounded citizens and generally sound-thinking individuals with teacher Percy’s method of educating for life and living.

I have not done so bad on teacher Percy’s watch. At least I could fix a fan, cook, and sing a whole song in Hindi.

I also have a degree with a double major in Mass Communication and Literature as well as a Master’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I have done courses in any and everything that you can think about, along with courses in education and training, mentoring and coaching from the United Kingdom.

Promising author Otancia Noel.

And I am on my way as a writer. My humble accolades include:

  • Longlisted for Bocas Johnson and Amoy short story prize for both fiction and non-fiction in 2019 and 2020;
  • Articles featured on Wired868 online newspaper;
  • Stories featured in Solar Punk USA online magazine;
  • Stories featured in The Caribbean Writer Magazine Virgin Islands USA;
  • Winner of The Vincent Cooper Literary Prize 2021from The University of Virgin Islands, USA;
  • Winner of Hodder and Hachette Education UK Island Voices Caribbean Contemporary Prize 2022- story featured in the published anthology;
  • Story featured in Bar Bar Magazine USA;
  • Listed for the Hugo and the Nebula Prize 2021 USA;
  • Second place in the Hammond House Publishing UK Short Story Origins Prize 2023 story featured in the Grimsby heritage festival anthology;
  • Runner Up fellowship offered to go to Kenya in July for the international Literary Seminar- my story was entered in the ILS Literary Seminar and Fence Short Story Prize 2023;
  • Non-fiction story Teenaged Coup: Reflections of 1990published in Lowle online Magazine;
  • Semifinalist in Kinsman Quarterly Iridescence Awards.

Everyone, please don’t forget that ‘teacher Percy say if yuh tell a lie yuh going to hell as soon as yuh die….’  Lord Nelson, King Liar.

More from Wired868
Daly Bread: If ministers feel “helpless” about crime, then what now?

With great dismay last Tuesday, I read the lamentation of three government ministers concerning the state of crime in Trinidad Read more

Vaneisa: Paying to learn—the lingering issue with VAT on books

In the late 1990s, in response to one of my weekly columns, retired Professor Emeritus Desmond Imbert called me. It Read more

Daly Bread: A social force for good—the gov’t can still do more for pan

The Junior Panorama took place last Sunday. It is the Carnival event I most enjoy.  This year, my annual attendance Read more

Noble: How educational inequity is incompatible with a just society

“[…] This feeling of always being uneducated influenced me when I became prime minister. There were always about 6,000 children Read more

“I’d have day planned and then something pops up…” Day in the life of a school principal

“[…] One of the initiatives that I started was every child at the school had to belong to a club, Read more

Daly Bread: Education triple whammy

Two weeks ago, I described conditions in the education system as destructive. I identified what I called the double whammy Read more

Check Also

Daly Bread: If ministers feel “helpless” about crime, then what now?

With great dismay last Tuesday, I read the lamentation of three government ministers concerning the …

One comment

  1. My grand father is teacher Percy if you need a picture to post let me know

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.