Who will save the teachers?


Who will save the teachers?

Intervention, not termination

BY Alethia Brown

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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My school recently celebrated its 120th year of existence, and it was a delight to see the past students of the 60s, 70s, and 80s from different spheres and domains of life converge on the grounds to reflect, reunite, and commemorate the founding patron saint. As I conversed with some of these past students, I noticed the frequent use of a particular expression among them: “Things were different back then.”

Indeed, the classroom and school atmosphere that existed some 60, or even 10 years ago, has changed dramatically in both directions — positive and negative.

On the heels of our jubilance, it was ironic and unfortunate that a video of a very irate teacher from another institution went viral, sparking diverse responses from the society at large. Of particular note to me was the 'acting' minister of education being adamant that the teacher cannot be allowed to continue to teach. I put it to the public that the situation was very unfortunate, and what I heard was the cry of a teacher who is in need of intervention at several levels.

So quick are we sometimes to condemn and judge an individual when there could be myriad underlying and extenuating factors that lead to certain culminating behaviours. I have had instances of students being extremely rude to me and my first human instinct was to react. Over the years, however, I have learned that reacting may spark a bigger fire, and so the position I now take is to take a deep breath, do preliminary investigations and, at a more opportune time, find out from the student what may have triggered the behaviour. Sometimes the reasons are appalling and distressing. Some students deal with issues that even we, as adults, would find difficult to cope with. But understanding is key, and then intervention can take place.

In the same manner I deal with those untenable student behaviours, I would wish for the same form of mitigation for teachers who, being humans, sometimes “lose it”. Yes, we are to exhibit professionalism at all times. Yes, we are to absorb insults and threats and treat with them in the best way possible. Yes, commonplace behaviour has absolutely no place in the educational domain, especially from teachers who are charged to be agents of positive change and role models. Yes, the stalwart teachers of yesteryear and the dignified teachers of today would never have exhibited such unfavourable behaviours or uttered such unprincipled words. But also, yes, the education landscape has changed, and, yes, teachers are still humans.

I do not, by any means, endorse the teacher's behaviour. There were several channels that she could have used to get assistance or to treat with the matter in a more appropriate way. I dare say, if the video is authentic, her utterances may even reflect a breach of the law, the Teachers' Code of Regulations, and the Child Protection Act. In two minutes and 22 seconds, this teacher compromised her values, the integrity of the profession, and made herself culpable of charges. It is infelicitous, and I hope the rest of us take heed and resist the temptation of acting in such a manner. We know the provocation stares us maliciously in the face on a daily basis. We know the levels of disrespect that have seemingly become the norm. But we also know that there are avenues for us to get the proper assistance in times when we fall short.

Despite the lapses in this particular teacher's approach, I urge the powers that be to execute due diligence in exploring every angle of the investigation to ascertain what obtained in the past few days, weeks, and months leading up to this incident. Try to have an understanding of the social atmosphere of this particular classroom space. Explore the possible triggers for the parties involved and just before termination — if that is the ultimatum — consider intervention. Teachers save many lives through transformational strategies and intervention all the time. Who will save the teachers?


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