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When Sarai Hines started teaching in England, the system bewildered her. From grading to student classification, everything was different.

Then the 22-year-old realised she had an advantage ­— her own island culture.

“We all forget what we have to bring to the table at the end of the day,” said Miss Hines. “I have worked at tons of summer camps here and done art groups. I was on the Spirit of Bermuda when I was 16.”

She used Spirit of Bermuda team-building activities to teach mutual respect.

“I started to keep who I was in the classroom,” she said.

She taught in several Birmingham schools while studying art education at the City University.

At the Holte School, staff gave her carte blanche to teach a masks module. For seven weeks she taught sixty 14-year-olds everything she could about Gombey masks.

“I had already taught my kids about Bermuda, because I had already had the question ‘You sound different, miss',” she said. “We really focused on the fact that Gombeys were slaves and danced to tell the story of the atrocities done to them.

“Students wrote their own story about their life or their personality. Some kids made up stories, which was fine.”

Then students made their own Gombey masks.

Miss Hines said doing the project felt really good. She said: “It was great teaching them about Bermuda, especially when I was a bit homesick.”

Before her lesson, none of the students had heard of a Gombey and only one or two had heard of Bermuda.

“I was quite shocked,” she said. “I found out more Americans know about Bermuda than the British do. We're both British! We share a queen!”

She set about filling in the knowledge gap.

“I set little quizzes for the students asking, ‘How long do you think Bermuda is?',” she said. “They guessed 4,000 miles. When I told them how big it was they guessed there were probably 500 people living there. Wrong again.” By the end of the project several students said they wanted to visit someday.

Students hadn't quite finished their masks when she finished her teaching placement, but planned to continue working on them with the next teacher.

“I guess it paid off because when I graduated last month I received the art prize for the most innovative practice,” Miss Hines said. “That was quite great after a long year.”

She now has a postgraduate teaching certificate in secondary education for art and design.

But she is not done yet.

She returns to England on Saturday to start a master's degree in teaching and learning at the same university. Her ultimate ambition is to return home to teach.

“I cannot wait to come back and make a huge impact for the better,” she said.

“I have realised that education has become just a statistic in a teacher's mark book for these kids.

“The drive to get kids wanting to learn is going away. I am trying to bring that back and get the kids to realise what they love to do and how they can learn, whether it is through a work release, or them being curious.

“I want students to realise that jobs out there aren't so black and white anymore.

“There are tons of things they can do and make an impact in the world.”

Island inspired: Sarai Hines, left, and one of her students wearing their hand-made Gombey masks (Photograph supplied)
Class act: Sarai Hines on her graduation day from Birmingham City University, left. Above,
Heritage on show: Birmingham students show off the Gombey masks they made with Sarai Hines, centre (Photograph supplied)
Artistic endeavour: the British students show off the Gombey masks made after learning about the island dancers (Photograph supplied)

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Published August 25, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated August 25, 2016 at 11:39 am)

Sharing Bermudian culture with foreign teens

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