We jus' a seh: Save our endangered teachers!

We jus' a seh: Save our endangered teachers!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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You've probably felt it and seen it long before the nation started talking about it - bone tired teachers all around, and your favourite teachers disappearing after summer or Christmas, only to be replaced by someone else eventually....or maybe not at all. Now the nation is catching up.

Not so long ago (in about 2013) Minister Ronald Thwaites made comments to the effect that no new teachers were needed. At the time the ruling government's message to persons interested in becoming teachers appeared to boil down to "Study something else, or go to work somewhere else."

Fast forward to 2020, and 2013's message has been received but with dire effects. Karl Samuda, the minister without portfolio who is currently overseeing the education ministry, has recently revealed that since September 2019 three hundred and ninety teachers have left the public school system. Yikes. But he's not worried. Double yikes. He has suggested that there are ways and means to manage the impact of so many teachers walking off the job in so little time, like recruiting retired teachers, merging smaller classes, hiring part-time teachers, increasing the use of ICT in classrooms and sharing information through the twinning of schools.

Now by themselves, or even together, these aren't all bad suggestions, but they are not answers to this problem. These are stopgaps, not solutions. Prevention is still better than cure, and the fact of the matter is teachers are leaving the job in droves for clear reasons that can and should be addressed.

Low pay and high stress, apparent hallmarks of the profession. The latter of which will only be increased by merging smaller classes thereby giving teachers more students to teach and more personalities and temperaments to manage on a daily basis.

And teachers aren't the only ones getting a raw deal here either. Students who already struggle to focus and/or keep up in fast paced, large classes will certainly feel the sting being moved into larger classrooms with a rapidly thinning chance of personal attention and help from their teachers, and from being taught by the videotaped lessons Mr Samuda insists are part of an ideal future.

The nation was quick to indict that Pembroke Hall High School teacher (you know the one), for her rash comments, but it has been suspiciously quiet in the wake of Mr Samuda's suggestions, which will almost certainly see stress and conflict levels in classrooms increasing rather than decreasing.

While Mr Samuda appears content to dismiss growing concern as alarmist, this problem has been brewing for decades and will likely continue on or get worse without the appropriate remedy. Teachers need more competitive and fair salaries, and school administrators and teachers need to be equipped with appropriate mechanisms to help teachers cope with the job's stresses and appropriately control their classrooms full of rambunctious students.

It isn't enough to smile and wave good riddance to our nation's teachers - our last defense against illiteracy and ignorance - as they move to other professions or move to better opportunities overseas. We must address their issues as best as we can, and that means offering appropriate remuneration that considers the sacrifice and hard work that goes into being a teacher, and equipping them to carry out their functions well.

Respectfully, Mr Samuda has this one wrong. For years teachers have clamoured for the better pay they so clearly deserve. It's way passed time we give it to them.


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