Mr. Lawrence is the head of the English department. He is also an English teacher at MGCI.
Q: How long have you worked for as a teacher?
A: I have been working as a teacher for almost 30 years. I started at about age 19, I went to teacher’s college right after high school for 3 years. I started teaching at a technical high school for about 8 years, then went back to my alma mater to teach for about 9 more years. I went on to migrate to the United States from Jamaica and taught there for around 4 and a half years, then finally came to Canada where I’ve been teaching since 1987.
Q: Have you always aspired to be an educator?
A: Not always, when I was in high school I wanted to be a doctor. I think my second choice was to be a dentist. Thirdly, a nurse. At the time, the thing of the day was male nurses, which was widely discussed. During career week, they took students who were interested in the medical field to the hospital. Right when we got to the gate, I started to feel nauseous, I started to feel ill, I thought, “you know what? Maybe this isn’t for me”. As a default, I went into teaching. I knew I wanted to be a professional, but I wasn’t sure in what field. During exam seasons, I became the leader of study groups, and based on the responses of my peers, it was one of my strengths. As a result, I tried out for teacher’s college and got in at a very young age, perhaps too young. But from there on out, I embarked on my teaching journey and I have no regrets.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a teacher?
A: My favorite part about being a teacher is just to see students become more enlightened, to grow, to bloom, to blossom. Really, it’s helping them discover talents and traits that they never knew about themselves before. I’m the tool they can use to really unlock their potential. Being a teacher is a very humbling and imploring as I watch students grow and mature.
Q: Any other passions asides from teaching?
A: As a matter of fact, it’s acting. Living in Jamaica, I was a well-known stage actor and I also did quite a bit of voice-overs in commercials, people said I had a great reader voice. While I was not teaching at night, I was performing in comedies, dramas, musicals. I was in a few Broadway-script musicals. When I was in New York, I did a few off-Broadway productions and television commercials. Once I came to Canada, I directed a few plays and acted in some as well. However, I haven’t done anything recently, being the head department of English came with a load of other responsibilities, in addition to my three Grade 11 classes. Though this passion has been on hold for the past 2 or 3 years, it still is one of my greatest pleasures.
Q: You mentioned that you enjoy Broadway productions. Do you have a favorite theatrical performance?
A: One of my favorites that I’ve seen is The Color Purple. It was a novel written by Alice Walker adapted into a script, I’ve seen it twice in New York. It starred Fantasia Barrino, and was produced by Oprah. I’ve seen many Broadway performances, but this one definitely stands out. I also loved Hairspray. That was a great performance. Surprisingly, The Lion King was not one of my favorites. It was colorful and dramatic. Personally, I found it to be too over the top, and it was simply too much. So overall, I’ve seen many Broadway performances, and what comes to mind right now is definitely The Color Purple.
Q: What philosophy could you give to any student at MGCI?
A: (Deep in thought) Well, I have quite a few but first of all, surround yourself with positive people. They will motivate you, inspire you and see the good in you. When they see that good, the positive energy allows you to take off and soar like an eagle. Secondly, believing in yourself goes together. If you only have one but not the other, the two forces will go against each other. I strongly believe as humans we are spiritual beings, whether we choose to be religious or not. I truly believe that we feed off the energy of others. I tell students it doesn’t matter where you come from, we have the power to change our circumstances. Even though it’s easier said than done, we just have to start by believing in it. This will be a game changer in our lives, which we can also use to positively affect the lives of others.
Q: As the head of the English department, do you consider it to be the most important of all the subjects?
A: I don’t want to call it a subject, but I know what you mean. But yes, I do believe it to be very important nowadays, as the standard of communication is quite low. I believe this is due to the excessive usage of
social media and technology. I’d say many people – not most are addicted to its usage. Yes, addicted to the use of social media. Some people can’t see themselves not holding a phone and going onto their Facebook, twitter, chatter, etc. Therefore, most of people’s reading is on social media – adults and young people alike. When it comes to formal writing and communications, people’s skills have definitely taken a nosedive.
Q: You seem to have a lot of opinions on humanity, what is your major concern for our species?
A: Our ignorance. I say that because we think we are more enlightened today, with the advent of our technology and great innovations – even the cell phone which is a rather new device. Yet we are still very ignorant, there’s all this hurt, pain, war and discord in the world. Whether it’s between the states and the middle east, North Korea, South Korea. Why is it we have not found solutions to all these grave problems? Whether it’s world hunger or war, humans pride themselves on being the most intelligent species, but since the beginning of time, we struggle to find solutions. We are still grappling with our many major problems, like racism. I can never understand how people are still racist. My mind is always trying to find answers. In my Grade 11 university-level English classes, I get my students to not just give me beautiful written response, but to come up with solutions to the problems that we see in short stories, Shakespeare, Macbeth, etc. How can we come up with new resolutions to solve problems? It’s not just good enough to come up with a problem, to simply state facts about the paragraphs. That’s what I’m interested in, what I push my students in is to come up with solutions, not just figure out what the problem is.
Q: Any last facts you think students should know about you?
A: I love dancing and acting crazy- I know how to have a good time. Though people think I have a very stern personality – yes I know I’m tall and have a booming voice, but if a student comes to me individually, I’m extremely personable, warm and amicable. I also see you as an individual, when you come to me I will see you as the most important person in the world to me. That is a standard I hold, if I’m talking to you face to face, I will try to give off the aura that you are important – so no one feels inferior, instead they feel accepted and valued. Hopefully when people perceive this, they can mirror this attitude towards others.