Day 3 in Ireland
Why come to a school on the Shankill?!
Monday, June 9, 2014
Our day started out with a visit to Stranmillis College to meet with Dr. Maureen Thatcher for a briefing on the UK education system. With an opportunity to gain the background knowledge, we were prepared to begin visiting the schools for this incredible cultural exchange. We were able to share ideas and thoughts and ask questions in comparison of the two educational systems. Dr. Thatcher accompanied us to both lunch at Cutter’s Wharf and then Glenwood Primary.
Glenwood Primary is located on Shankill Road, in the heart of Belfast’s violent historical neighborhood. Mr. Leatham is the principal over 500 children he describes as having “shiny eyes and big smiles but each one has his own excess baggage.” Mr. Leatham spoke of his children having a great deal of resiliency. Each of us connected. We all knew our own kids at home, and how they bring a story or some sort of baggage with them; yet, Mr. Leatham didn’t know our children so finally he asked, “Why come to a school on the Shankill?”
We took our time in each classroom. We laughed with children; we connected in some way with each classroom, and then, it was time to go. Later, we met with Billy Stephenson, who gave us a guided tour of his neighborhood there on the Shankill. Billy shared with us the neighborhood murals that had been painted on the side of many of the town homes in the area. Finally, we drove by the Wall, which serves as a separation to improve peaceful relations until the people are able to unite and apologize. Billy left us with this thought: “How do we change a culture that idolizes images that support this hatred?
Today’s experience left us in a saddened understanding of the effects of poverty and community beliefs.
JBU Graduate Education Student