Are not teachers equal?
I am one of those poor saps who will say I did not choose to be a teacher. I was called to the profession. I have the story to confirm, but this is not the time for stories. Rather, let us face some facts: Teaching is harder than any physical, menial labour.
With teachers, when our brains are tired, no amount of sleep will help, because even in sleep it seems as if the brain is still working. It has to take its time to de-stress.
But that is not the reason for this note.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm states it best: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Teachers are obviously ‘others’. Why is it that everyone can take action about their poor salaries but if teachers do it we are not considering the nation’s children? Are we not the nation’s children too? Doesn’t our Government have an obligation to ensure our well-being too? Are we not supposed to be able to take care of our responsibilities too?
We hear about salary negotiations and everyone automatically thinks teachers are getting ‘big’ money. Did anyone stop to think that when an increased is agreed upon more than half of it is taken back by the Government through taxes? Did the public ever stop to think that teachers carry the same responsibilities that they do?
I am appalled by some of the comments the public made during this and every negotiation process. If you are so dissatisfied with the teachers, why don’t you come into the classroom and teach your children? Why don’t you be bombarded with lesson planning, marking, teaching (academia and social skill), maintaining discipline? Why don’t you come be mother, father, sister, brother, friend, nurse, counsellor, facilitator, advocate?
We make sacrifices for your children. Teachers are unrecognised and unappreciated.
All teachers are asking is that you pay us so that we do not die prematurely from the stress of work and the burden we face when we are unable to meet our responsibilities financially.
Stop looking at teachers’ so-called disruptive action. Look on the fact that they, too, are human.
William Shakespeare posits it best in Merchant of Venice (Act III Scene 1): “Hath not a Jew (teachers) hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian (public)? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that… The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
Teachers are doing nothing that nurses, doctors, police officers, security guards, tourism sector workers, garbage disposal workers, and even sex workers have not done. It is a breach of our humanitarian rights if we are not paid enough to live a meaningful life (Yogyakarta Principles, Principle 12 ‘Everyone has the right to decent and productive work, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment, without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity’).
Do teachers have just and favourable conditions of work when they are living hand to mouth and the credit unions and banks are their best ‘frenimies’ because they have to keep borrowing to make ends meet?
I was once a happy teacher. Now, I do not even have an emotion as it relates to this job.
Please, government officials, Jamaica Teachers’ Association and the public, give the teachers what they desire before they start looking at the classroom as a mere chore they dread and not as a place of enjoyment. Have you ever heard the saying, you accomplish more if you are interested? Teachers are actually interested in having their students learn.
Test your theory, I dare you.
Natesha Lindsay is an educator and life-long student, where she currently practices her craft as a member of the Department of English at the St Jago High School. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.