Regional

Push out or step out, teachers told

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Sunday Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 20, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester - Veteran educator, researcher and consultant Pauletta Chevannes has said that teachers who find themselves unable to cope with the demands of the profession should walk away from it.

"You have entered what I see as one of the most prestigious and the most demanding professions," Chevannes told an audience of mainly teachers involved in a Master's degree programme done at the privately-run Catholic College in Manchester in partnership with St Mary's University of Minnesota.

"This profession requires particular qualities as an individual. If you feel that you are not up to it, step out, and if you feel that you are up to it, push out," said Chevannes, who has been involved in education for over 50 years.

Pointing to a need to lift the standards of teaching as a profession, Chevannes said that while the proposed Jamaica Teaching Council Bill should be "tidied up", it is essential that there is a guiding framework.

"We must have ways and means of ensuring that the profession is protected. I am tired to hear people say if you can't get a job, why you don't try teaching. We need to have a profession that is a profession," she said.

The draft Jamaica Teaching Council Bill, currently the subject of intense discussion among stakeholder groups, seeks, among other things, to provide for the establishment of a governing body for the teaching profession, and institute a regime for the licensing and registration of all public sector teachers.

Chevannes, who was one of the keynote speakers at the recent two-day conference organised by Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

and the Williamsfield-based Catholic College of Mandeville, said that as times change it is also important that the necessary changes are made in education.

Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning students of St Mary's University of Minnesota made public presentations during the conference at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville on varying research topics.

Making note of the "action research," which is intended to transform classrooms, Chevannes said that among the things that exemplify a good teacher is the use of available resources as a platform to help children learn.

Chevannes said that teachers had a particular "sphere of influence" and as such their journey was not complete at the end of the work day.

"You have to... be good at reflection. You cannot be a teacher and not live a particular type of life. If you are in the classroom and there is no relationship between what you do in the classroom and what you do outside of the classroom -- in your homes, in the churches, in the public sphere -- then you are not a teacher," she said.

"It is a lifelong journey. As you are transforming lives, you also should be transforming yourselves. To be a good role model you have to be very careful of the choices that you make," Chavannes added.

Chevannes said that on many occasions schools placed the focus on external examination passes, but the large objective of a teacher was to create a human being who can add value to society both academically and socially.

She urged the educators not to underestimate their ability to shape young minds in a positive way.

"We groan and we moan about the importance and the influence of the entertainers. The school is the only institution that children go through from they are very young and spend most of the years of their lives. Some of the students in your schools, if you were to know some of the things that they (are) involved in outside of school, you would be surprised. But when they step through your gate they respect you. You are able to say things to them that some other people cannot say, and you can get them to do things that some other people cannot get them to do. We have to take back our influence. We have given it away," Chevannes said.

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