Teachers deserve more

Teachers deserve more

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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Dear Editor,

The 33rd president of the United States Harry S Truman is noted for saying: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” But I am uncertain as to whether or not this has ever really been the case that teachers are truly thanked or recognised.

As I recount the many cries of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) for wage increases, I also recall when I was in fifth form at high school. I went to visit a past teacher. We began to discuss career choices when she just blurted, “Don't even think of becoming a teacher!” Of course, that seemed rather strange that, as a teacher, she tried to dissuade me from trodding the very path she was on for over 20 years. She saw the quizzical look on my face and then stated firmly: “Teaching is a very ungrateful profession.” Little did I know that I was soon to understand what those words truly meant.

I'm not sure if any of my colleagues took any modules back in college or while they were training that prepared them for such a time as this. I can say, however, that I was by no means equipped to handle this and maybe it's safe to speak for the teaching body at large and say that they were not the least bit prepared. But, here we are, a year later, evolving with the times and learning lessons taught by the school of hard knocks; let's use it's more recent name — pandemic.

Education and learning is not as it used to be, wherein you sit in your seat and open your mind to the 'chalk and talk' way of teaching and delivery of lessons. These are ever-changing times. Teachers have to be tailoring online lessons to meet the needs and learning styles of each child. Teachers have become trees with many branches and have been extending themselves a bit more and in all areas or angles. Lessons have been made even more creative so children don't get bored of being in front of a monitor all day taking notes. For kids who are unable to even attend online classes, teachers have still been trying to reach them.

Will Teachers' Day 2021 be the same as it has always been for many teachers? I shuddered at the fact that we are still stuck on the notion of just thanking a teacher if you can read this. It has long gone beyond just a thank you. And, yes, we are being paid to do our job but for many, if not all, teaching has not been just a job for some time now; we've gone above and beyond the call of duty, beyond the job description, beyond what we've signed up for.

I'm sure if you are hired for a particular position, and differing responsibilities continue to be added, you'd be taking it up with your boss that you'd want an increase in pay for the new role. You would also want the recognition. In like manner, teachers need to receive maximum respect, especially for all they've been doing. If this has been in question, then all doubts should have been erased throughout the last year.

I am truly grateful for my son's teacher, Dian Campbell, a second grade teacher at Half-Way-Tree Primary School. When I listen to her and watch her during the days when I stop to check on my son — who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is doing tremendously with the new norm of learning and teaching — how can I not be beyond grateful for this wonder woman? How can I just say thank you and move on as if she's not working wonders with my child and his challenges?

Teaching is not business as usual and will never be, even after the dust settles with the pandemic. Teaching should no longer be considered as an ungrateful profession. The JTA should no longer be in the news beseeching the Government for an increase in pay; they've already earned it.

Ornelia Cameron


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