Archive | May, 2013

EDUCATION TO HEAD-DECAY-TION: WHOSE FAULT IS IT-TEACHERS OR GOVERNMENT?

30 May

*“If education is the key, tell me who change the lock….”     but has the lock really changed or  is it that the key did not fit from the onset?

It is just absolutely disappointing yet not surprising the ugly turn that this situation with the Minister of Education has become.  Doran Dixon in the past has been a very good president of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA).  It was under his presidency that teachers received the most satisfactory wage increase and other benefits.  Despite, this, I will be one of the first to admit that his analogy re the minister of education as a mongrel dog was unfortunate, inappropriate and unacceptable.   But what strike me the most about this matter is the numerous persons including Principals and members of the Jamaica Parent Teachers Association (JPTA) who immediately rushed to chastise him for the same.

When Rev. Ronnie Thwaites made the pronouncement about retracting study leave with pay, I did not hear these persons ( principals & PTA representatives) adding their voices to the discourse in defense of teachers entitlement.  But it is not surprising. Only who feels it knows it.  The benefits allotted to principals are quite attractive and so it seems that the plights of a regular classroom teacher are not recognized by some of them.    As for the JPTA organization of Jamaica, I have never heard that organization start a discourse about the absence of parental involvement in schools, or high level of violence in schools, yet on Mr Dixon comment seem to have allowed them to emerge from the shadows.    What is now unfortunate is that the important issues are being ignored and the emphasis is now on the comment made by former JTA president.

 THE DISCOURSE IS INCORRECTLY FOCUSED

How can the education system move forward if we continue to ignore what the real issues are?  The recent report by the National Education Inspectorate with the damning information about the education system that the ministry of education made public, is laying the blame squarely at the feet of teachers.   It is quite disappointing that Mr Thwaites would stoop so low as to use information in the context of ammunition for his lack of disregard for teachers.      In his most recent interview on the matter he advanced that this information was presented to him some time ago.  My question is, why wasn’t it made public before?  Why wait until now when he is about to recant the provision that allows for continued professional development of teachers?   Such action in my mind alludes to his intention of vilifying teachers in order to justify his decision

The last fifty years, our education system has not grown significantly because there is a lack of investment by the powers that be. This further indicates why the economy has not grown.   It is the human resource of a country that contributes to its growth process. But how can we improve human resource when there is little or no investment in education.  The education ministry should be investing base on per student capita, not a general school populace. No wonder Jamaica’s education system is the worst in the Caribbean and possible the world. ( I will have to do some research on this)  the current discourse should be about what has the government invested or NOT invested why over the years, we fail to improve the education system.  There should be implementation of best practices adopted from other countries/regions where their education system is flourishing.  Therefore, the focus of the discourse is wrong.

This is should be focus of our government

If only our leaders could effectively do this….

 

DOUBLE STANDARDS

The damning reports also revealed that leadership is a major problem.  If my knowledge serves me well, and I know it does, It is the ministry that approves principalship.    Each school in Jamaica has an education officer whose task is to work closely with a school’s administration and hold them accountable.  The education officers must report to the permanent secretary.  It therefore mans that if incompetent leaders are in our schools, somebody is NOT doing their job is it is definitely not the teachers.  So I ask the question, who is attacking thing from that perspective? I therefore say Mr Thwaites need to pick the beam from his eye so he can clearly see what is in someone else’s.

The double standard continues.     The last fifty years, the economy of Jamaica has deteriorated to a crisis level.   Our dear politicians- who Mr Thwaites is one- are responsible for all the policies and decisions made.   Cumulatively, the decisions made by the political representatives have only served to put the country into further peril-further decay of education. Therefore if this is not under performance I do not know what is. Yet still, they have been rewarded with multimillion dollar SUVs.  It therefore means the same country that is unable to keep teachers on study leave with pay because of a lack of resource yet it can afford to give these high end vehicles.  Yet, the populace did not make it their mandate to lobby against such actions.  Why didn’t they cut their benefits as a symbolic gesture to the nation that they are also holding strain?   Teachers are easy target.

It doesn’t stop there. Numerous politicians have been missing parliamentary sittings without apologies and no logical explanation. Yet still they have retained their positions in the government and reaping benefits.  But tell me, which teacher can just opt not to attend work at his or her leisure without facing dire consequences?  Impossible!!!!   The politicians do it all the time though with no ramifications.  Yet, the common consensus is that teachers are failing.  Where is the equity in measuring performance?  The real question therefore is; is it our teachers that are failing or is it that our Education managers have FAILED to adequately manage education?

This article is in no way trying to paint a perfect picture of teachers because I do believe we have a few incompetent ones in the system BUT  I believe the main problem with our education system is not with the teachers but the short comings and short sighted and politically driven policy makers who are at the helm.  They are using the WRONG key.  As with most things, someone must take the fall and in this case it’s the teachers.

Education is not a romping shop

*line taken from the poem “Locks & Keys” by Sabrena McDonald.

*images taken from google pictures

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THE ARTS: HEAVY-WEIGHT OF ALL CURRICULA

21 May

Welcome to the curricula, a heavy weight championships where four competitors butt ‘heads’  for dominance.  Fighting out of literacy corner wearing a robe of vocabulary is heavy  English language,  from the numeracy corner wearing a robe of numbers is  mathematics; from the experiment corner wearing a robe of microscope and formula is Science;  and out of the  entrepreneur corner, wearing a robe of technology, the only middle weight  challenger,  Business!!!.

And they are bouncing and dancing around each other…English language throws a punch, its dodged by mathematics who responds with a solid right…English staggers against the rope and recovers quickly…Whap! Ohhh, a solid right, and a follow up left catching mathematics who unsuccessfully attempts to block them.  Here comes science with a fast right to mathematics and a left to English language….it dances in the ring…science is now being challenged by business.  Business throws a cautious jab and backs away, shielding as it moves around the ring…English language is open, business moves in and lands a solid punch but English responds with a double right hand…its getting exciting… business intends to prove something…it goes throws a jab at mathematics, it backs away dropping its guards, in goes business again, one right, one left, another, another left…..english language throws a punch at science and misses; another and ohh it connects beautifully…. (the bell rings…)

This challenge has been happening for years, yet none has emerged the victor.  You know why?   The victor of this academic boxing challenge has no competitor.    What is the victor?  THE ARTS!!!   All other subject areas lack flexibility, scope and range to make a spread and reach all people.   Let us examine it.

Most teachers, in an attempt to impart the English, science, mathematics and business, utilize the arts in their classrooms.  Students are dramatizing, composing, visual arts, dancing.    On the other hand, if you walk into any of the Arts classes, you will not see them using these other subjects to impart content.  While there may be a fusion, they will not be methodology.   It therefore means, if the arts is such a powerful methodology, why isn’t driving curricula across the world; why isn’t given more respect; why does society try to ignite and fuel a senseless fight among mathematics, English language, science and business for dominance?

Whenever there are attempts at intervention for troubled youths, the arts become the medium through which the intervention takes place.   Whenever entertainment is being sought after, arts become the medium of entertainment.    The life skills that is needed to ensure students function effectively as global citizens are best developed through the arts: teamwork, discipline, socialization, self-confidence, etc…  I would like someone who disagrees with me to share with me how mathematics, English language, science and business adequately teach those life skills.

When you feel sad, your facial expression becomes sad; you sometimes listen to music that reflects your state of mind;  some people will write what they feel; dress how they feel, draw what they feel.  You become expressive.   That IS theatre.

symbolic representation of the arts in curricula

symbolic representation of the arts in curricula

The arts is the nuclei of our education system.   There are some parents who continue to coerce and massage their children for these more traditional academics even when the children do not have the aptitude for it.  Society need to erase the MYTH that it is persons who are ‘dunce’ or less capable pursue the arts.  We cry for education reform but this reformation will not happen successfully until society acknowledges the power of the arts- the heavy weight of all curricula.

 

Need training/workshop or ideas how to use The arts to improve your institution or organization?

Need workshop regarding curriculum restructuring?

Contact rainereid@gmail.com

HOLY CHILDHOOD HIGH SCHOOL FEELS THE SPIRIT

18 May

… in the name of the father, the son and Holy spirit, Amen

That’s a familiar phrase you will hear if you should happen to be on the compound of Holy Childhood high School at 7:40 a.m, 11:40 a.m, and 2:30 p.m .  YES!  Prayers are said three times per day- morning offering, noon-day prayer, dismissal prayer.

you can never miss this wall

you can never miss this wall

Despite being a catholic institution; despite being aggressively religious; despite praying three times a day…there was no spirit.  In essence you could say all that existed was the father and the son…where the spirit was, couldn’t tell… must have been gobbled up by the Grinch.

For about five years I watched the numbers dwindle…lower and lower and lower they went…. What do I mean by this?

Both staff and students had lost zest  to voluntarily participate in school activities .  In essence there was no school morale.  How can there be a school without SCHOOL SPIRIT?    When I was attending Clarendon College…. Let me not digress but I know you will agree with me that this is one of the worst  things that could befall an institution.  Sports day, handful of students; staff outings, handful of teachers other events, all handful.  The events that would get most of the support would be dance off held by the sixth form body and the school’s annual barbecue. I can’t help but recall my high school moments as I write this.     It was disheartening… so the quest began with a team…the quest to unearth and regain that which was lost.

The journey started bearing fruit… Over the last four years,  students involvement grew… teachers involvement grew… how did we know this?   Schools events were once again populated with staff and student.  Sports day, staff versus student netball, monthly lymes, they were all back The school’s long service award ceremony in December 2012 in a major evidence- 98% of the staff was present.  Can you imagine-NINTY-EIGHT PERCENT!!!!  (that’s for another article) and if you read my article about Teachers’ Day Service you would see what am talking about.

a sneak peek @ the long service award ceremony

a sneak peak @ the long service award ceremony…as far as the eyes can see, there are people.

So we knew the spirit was lurking in the shadows…we could feel it and see it But if there were any doubt as to the spirit, Thursday May 16, 2013 erased them all.

It was the penultimate day….

As I alighted from my car, I heard loud shouts of excitement. I was taken aback because noise of such nature was forbidden by Sister’. We all know how quiet our nuns can be.  I briskly walked towards the office.  Another uproar. I almost broke into a run when a student said “miss, where is your uniform?”   Still eager to see what was happening I continued.  Upon entering the staffroom, I saw a sea of students. As I was about to get in teacher mode to voice my disapproval about students being inside the staffroom, a familiar face turned to me and said “so miss Reid, why you not wearing your uniform”    they saw the relief on my face and in my body and  burst into a fit of laughter.   As I watched the camaraderie, it looked good and it felt good.

Spirit inna dem...Can you believe those are ALL teachers?

Spirit inna dem…Can you believe those are ALL teachers?

Wait, penultimate day to what?   Penultimate day to child’s day and the quest was still on to ensure spirit returned with full force and sustainability, so it was decided by the team to have all staff members dressed as students for the day…the kids had a BLAST!    What was most interesting was the fact that Holy Childhood High is an all-girls institution, BUT the males dressed as students in their Khaki pants, white shirts and ties.    Can you imagine the screams and giggles when the girls saw them?  Why wasn’t I apart of it?  Well, I was. I just didn’t get to put on uniform and look like a teenager.  The curriculum review process was still in progress so I could only participate by assisting with planning and coordinating. Yes! Even at a distance I can.

male teachers @ holy Childhood High for  girls!!! or should I now cay boys or co-ed?

male teachers @ holy Childhood High for girls!!! or should I now say boys or co-ed?

As the spirit moved, and touched student teachers, administrators, the school was a buzz of excitement leading into the next; the main day.  Friday May 17, 2013, was a day not to forget.  The school ground was a sea of blue and yellow girls beautifully attired; All chatted excitedly in anticipation of their child’s day celebration: Displays, treat, horse riding show by Jamaica Constabulary Force and ultimate, a STAFF CONCERT.   Laughs, screams, shouts of encore as they watched the school community entertained them through dances, songs, fashion show, poetry, etc…

By the end, the teachers were spiri-toxicated; students were spiri-toxicated;  they all left school filled with the spirit…

Having been part of the planning process, what was most satisfying was the commitment, participation and integration among teachers, administration and ancillary staff in this venture.

A school cannot exist without morale.  Administrators and staff must find creative ways to build and sustain school morale to enhance school climate.

What are the benefits of school morale?

Want ideas or conceptual development as to how to improve school morale?

Need these answers? Look no further.  Contact rainereid@gmail.com  We will guide you to the “spirit well”

We started with prayer, we will end with prayer:

Let us pray …Gentle Jesus meek and mild…which is the best high school and why… in the name of the father, the son and Holy spirit…bless our staff and students with school spirit forthwith.

TEACHERS: JAMAICA’S BEATING STICK?

18 May

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!  That’s the sound of the *subble- jack been levied on ‘back’ the teaching profession.

In this institution of Education, the whimpy teachers try their best but it is never good enough. They continue to be bullied by the bullies of this ‘school’-government of Jamaica.  It is just sad. The teachers cry out! They scream yet their voices continue to be unheard. They are sick and so tired of the beating.   Filled with scars and bruises from the whip of society, teachers continue to press on.     When these bullies decide to levy a beating, they come harmed with assortment of weapons: low performance, too much holidays; support from the public; pay them by performance; they are not qualified….and the list continues.  As they pile these weapons up, the teachers are placed in a “circle” and are whipped mercilessly!!    Despite all the beatings, with scars and bruises, they continue to do the best they can with the basket they are given to carry the water.

WHAP! WHAP!  That is the sound of the most recent set of lashes.  These lashes from the recent pronouncement by the Minister of Education to suspend study leave with pay for teachers which has sparked severe controversy and outrage among the nation teachers.  This he claims is a condition under the standby agreement with the IMF.    How ludicrous. The whimpy teachers were asked to agree to a wage freeze along with other public sector workers which they did. Throughout the negotiations, there was  ‘P.T. A’ meeting (communication through media) to inform the nation of this arrangement.   Now like general King Kong, our dear Minister of education who is the Principal of this institution call education announced the revocation of the ONLY benefit that teachers receive.

 

THE NEVERS OF THE SYSTEM

It is really sad that the blame for the low performance of the nations’ children is levied solely at the feet of teachers;  I have never heard society come out and lobby for parents to become more active players in their children’s education;  I have never heard society lobby for the ministry of education to provide the schools with more resources; I have never heard society lobby that the ministry engage the institutions that are responsible for training our teachers; Most importantly, I have never heard lobby for the ministry of education policy makers  to assess themselves as MOST of what happens in the school have to be sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.

Wouldn’t this be interesting

THE UGLY TRUTH

Most teachers colleges only offer teacher training to the diploma level. It therefore means if teachers need a first degree they would have to attend another university. Most of these universities offer education courses during the day. At that time our teachers will be in class teaching the same children who belong to these government officials.  The universities that offer courses in the afternoon are not quite accessible to some teachers who live in some very rural parts of the island.   I will agree that a number of off shore universities have come on stream and a number of teachers are making use of this BUT reality is that their fees are extremely expensive.   Some of them, the fee are paid in U.S. dollars and must be paid per course. Now, with the dollar sliding rapidly, how can some afford to pay this especially when teachers’ salaries are nothing to sing home about?  They have to try to attend our national institutions where it is more cost effective.

Most importantly, teaching and studying is no easy task. Let’s look at the logic.  I will use the example of a teacher who teaches English Language and English literature to grade 7, 8 & 9.  Those are three different grades, it therefore means, three sets of lesson plan per week for each.   That is no easy task.  Additionally, one of those classes contain 25-30 students (and that’s for the more privilege institutions). An English language and English literature exam with see students writing three essay’s per paper.  That is 75 essays per class for ONE SUBJECT.  Work out the math when you add the others bearing in mind some teachers teach more than three subjects.  Even if its class work and teacher collect books, it is still a lot for one person, yet the teachers do it.  Now, when a teacher is studying part time and has all this work to do, plus try to meet the demands of university, one runs the risk of short change in the system.   Either students will be short changed as teachers will not be able to give the great level of attention that is required or the teacher will risk performing at a mediocre standard or may not complete the higher level study.   What the study leave does is eliminate this problem. It facilitate teachers professional advancement as is stipulated by the ministry of education, and allow students to be given complete contact time as is required and more.

The ugly truth is some teachers cannot take one year study leave without pay for obvious reasons: family obligations, payment of fees, etc… and others cannot afford to study-part time because of the propensity of short changing their students and theirselves.

THE SAD TRUTH!

Most of the people who are making the decisions and are levying strong judgements against teachers would not have made their grade without their teachers.   The moment a child gets to age two, parents are pleading with teachers to take their child in their institutions.  Whenever a child does well is sports, performing arts, most times it is teachers who discover their talents that parents later bask in. whenever parents cannot parent their children, it is to teachers they turn to and beg for teachers to intervene.   When some parents cannot afford examination fees, uniforms, books, lunch for their children, it is the teachers who make the provision…. the list continues.  YET! Despite all these things, society cannot find it in themselves to give teachers the RESPECT they so rightly deserve. All they seem worthy of are lashes.

Scarred.  Battered. Bruised. Teachers of Jamaica continue to sit on the banks of river-schools, still attempting to use basket to pour water on coco leaf…(Rex Nettleford & Brian Heap).

WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!… so the beating continues…

Stay tuned… share your thoughts

*subble-jack is a whip use for beating mostly donkeys my grandparents once told me.

*image retrieved from google pictures.

TEACHERS’ DAY SERVICE

14 May

…..not the hand clapping, feet stomping, Holy Ghost sanctify Service.

The action all unfolded on    Wednesday May 8, 2013.

I jumped out of the bed, made several 360 degree turns; didn’t know where I was…l… my disoriented mind struggled to assemble its thoughts.  30 seconds later I became aware of the alarm clock and its annoying sound that pierced my ears and left my head pounding.    I snatched it and was tempted to throw it in the wall but decided against it because by this time, my head was clear enough to know that would have been a silly action.  It was 5:30 a.m.

I lazily dragged myself around the house. I checked the time. 6:00 a.m  Oh my God! How time flies. (PING) I pressed the fast forward button. I had to be out of the house by 6:30 a.m   You may ask why the rush. Let me explain.  It was a special day. TEACHER’S DAY!   As president of the School’s Staff Association,  I planned a treat for ‘my’ staff.  This meant I had to get to work before everyone else. So you see, the rush was on. Luckily for my talent in speeding (not even Usain Bolt could beat me) I was out of the house by 6:30 a.m

As I quickly made my way down Wellington Glade and Old Hope Road, through New Kingston and into Half Way Tree,  I silently sang “Jesus Take the Wheel” and prayed the police decided to sleep in that morning. Again, luckily for me, the red seams were nowhere to be found. 6:42 a.m.  I drove through the school gate.  I didn’t arrive before everyone but I arrived before most.  I immediately got to work.

As I admired the décor done by a fellow colleague, I was excited. What was more exciting were the delightful facial expressions at what they saw.    To make them feel special, I had the caterers whipped up a good old Jamaican breakfast of fried dumpling, callaloo, baked bean with salted fish and escoveished fish.   My my!  It was tasty. As they made their way to the buffet table, some beautiful soulful music resonated in their ears. Gosh! They were happy. I realized I was happy too. I was grinning from ear to ear. I was happy because ‘my ‘ staff was happy and I contributed.

Thats mee!....basking in my role as a server.

Thats mee!….basking in my role as a server.

To Serve or Be Served, That’s the Question

Part of their happiness was attributed to their anticipated ‘outing’ to the lush parish of Portland.  With feelings of ambivalence  I watched them preparing in anticipation of this.  I was happy to see the staff morale but I was sad because I was not going to be on the trip.  You see, I have been apart of the curriculum review process for the last year and we are into the final stretch and my presence is crucial.  “you really not coming Miss Reid? On a day like today to going curriculum review? No sah. The ministry fi giv unno today off”.    I smiled.   Like an epiphany it dawned on me that “some of us are meant to serve.   According to the online dictionary the word “serve” means “to perform duties or services for another person or organization.”     I provided service to the organization by treating the staff on this their special day; now I was about to go serve the nation in another.  I smiled inwardly as I recognized and accepted my purpose.

8:45 a.m.  The buses issued with the task of transporting the teachers to their day of frolicking drove in.  Excited high pitched voices filled with laughter shouted to each other in jest or other form.  They were like young children going to the fun park.  I envied them.   I watched them quickly take their places.  9:20a.m.     The buses left.  As the last bus disappeared, my heart sank a little.  I slouched to the car. My journey, my mind was a ‘bank’ of thoughts.

10:30.a.m   I walked into the big hall where it was all happening and I saw several other teachers like myself.  I was heartened. I smiled. My spirit was lifted.  My mind reminded me “some of us were meant to serve”.   I went to my station and got busy.

Dr. Brian Heap along with my other colleagues
Dr. Brian Heap along with my other colleagues
educators @ curriculum review.....Room full; hall full; cannot get a spoonful.

educators @ curriculum review…..Room full; hall full; cannot get a spoonful.

3:30 p.m.    We were treated to a concert and great food by the core curriculum unit. So guess what, we were not forgotten.

The education sector has many facets. As educators we serve. Some of us like myself are fortunate –some may say unfortunate- to serve in several areas at once.  The truth is, some of us cannot run from our purpose in life.  Some will be served while others serve. At some point in our lives, we take on one role or another.   Education system NEED people who are servers.  This is how we are going to build our human resource-through Education.

My question to you is:  are you a server or one to be served?  Please leave a comment to say who you are.      If you are not sure and want to find out, contact rainereid@gmail.com     A session on “Who am I” awaits you.

LESSON PLAN: AVOID STRESS ‘WRITE’ NOW

8 May

 

    “I wish I could beat the persons who invented lesson plan

This facebook status from my friend Georgia  Dockery drew quite a few humorous comments- even from me.  It confirmed something I have always known- MOST TEACHERS DO NOT LIKE TO WRITE LESSON PLANS.  I may be chastised for the next point but it is a reality. Most teachers do not like to write lesson plans because they are unable to do it properly.  ( this is by no means throwing words at you Georgia) And you may wonder how is it that a teacher is unable to write lesson plans after spending years in training. The other reality is that some persons do not know how to effectively teach another how to write lesson plans.  Being able to write one, does not mean you can teach someone how to.   The lesson is a classroom bible and it is quite unfortunate that some teachers haven’t mastered how to effectively write their own bible.

Use your head and plan ahead for the little heads

Why should I write lesson plans?

Consider this Scenario:

Martha discovered a broken pipe in her bathroom.  She called the plumbing company who immediately sends someone over.  Martha was pleased with the prompt response. She then discovered, that the plumber was not equipped to do the task as he did not have all the tools he needed in his tool bag.  

Question: if you were Martha, what would you do?

Let us look at possible outcomes of this situation:

  1. He might not be able to complete the job
  2. He may complete the job but  the quality of work may be poor
  3. He may complete the job but with a great degree of difficulty

On the other hand, if he had his tools, then he would complete the job and with less difficulty. The quality of work will no doubt be better.

Equate lesson planning to above scenario. If you plan your lessons properly then you will eliminate some daily classroom challenges.

  1. Reduce disciplinary challenges. If you plan your lesson to engage all your students then you will realize that you have better classroom control.
  2. Improve classroom climate. Plan your lessons for YOUR environment. it therefore means, all your students are NOT the same so the execution of your lesson will vary. It means you MUST know your students to do this.
  3. Avoid ramble: Somme teachers struggle to execute a lesson for 90minutes.  That is because he/she did not plan for the time allotted so there is a struggle to find activities
  4. Avoid boredom.  When you take time to plan your lessons,  you are better able to find creative approach and activities to impart your lessons.

How to write lesson plan?

There are some basic steps to writing a lesson plans;

  1. Ask yourself:  what am I going to teach? (topic)
  2. What is it about this topic am I going to teach? (focus question)
  3. Once you identify what is to be taught, ask yourself: what do I want to achieve by teaching this topic? (objective)
  4. Then you ask yourself: how am I going to teach this topic to ensure I achieve my objective? (methodology)
  5. What step by step activities can I do to keep my lesson focused? (procedure)
  6. Of course, you will need to hear from the students so you ask: how do I know if or how much my students have learnt? (assessment)
  7. As any good teacher, you will want to know how your class went overall so you will do a flashback and replay you enter lesson execution in your mind paying attention to details (evaluation)

So you see, easy does it!  Follow these basic steps and you cannot go wrong.  If you do this, you will have healthier classroom and a healthier you. SO PLAN YOUR LESSONS AND AVOID STRESS ‘WRITE’ NOW.

Some persons may have the responses to these questions in their heads and may find it challenging to articulate this on paper.  Do not worry, that is why Rainereid Educators’ Block is here.

For further details or instructions on how to articulate these responses in writing effectively, contact me at rainereid@gmail.com

* Image taken from google pictures