Teachers need time to recover tooTuesday, March 23, 2021
BY Norman W M Thompson
It seems as if the Ministry of Education would like to extend the school year, at least for Primary Exit Profile (PEP) students. In his recent budget presentation, no less a person than Prime Minister Andrew Holness seemingly went down the same road when he raised the possibility of summer school; however, this time apparently for all grades.
Last week, Jasford Gabriel, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), expressed the disagreement of his association with the proposal to extend the school year because of PEP. Furthermore, he put a counter proposal on the table of having the receiving schools administer the diagnostic test at the beginning of the new school year.
I wish to hear a discussion on the merits of Gabriel's idea, but he said something that seems to have escaped our leaders. It has to do with the mental and physical preparedness that our teachers need to face a new school year. The JTA president pointed out that teachers have virtually not left the screen since March of last year. The normal breaks have been spent in training so that they can be more adept at delivering classes online. Gabriel spoke of the need for teachers to recuperate. I can speak, too, for I am a teacher.
I don't know, if in all my years of teaching, I have heard someone raise this matter in the public arena. When I think of recuperation, when I think of the need for a recovery period, I think of football. Manchester City, for example, is playing in four competitions — Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and Champions League. Now the same 11 players do not play in all the competitions. Players are human beings; they need rest, they need a recovery period. It is very difficult for players to take part in three matches in eight days.
Now, to hear some people speak, it would appear that the teachers have not worked adequately during the school year so they can work in the summer to make up for lost time. The fact is that both teachers and students need time to recuperate in this particularly stressful time. Teachers work beyond the end of the school day. Teachers work on the weekend. Teachers work through lunch-time. (Teachers, I am begging you to take your lunch-time. I am begging you to have your lunch in a quiet place and not allow yourself to be disturbed by anyone. Please, don't eat at your desks!)
What is the solution?
I have heard people say that this year should be treated as a lost period. For how long? But there is some merit in this. I hear the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) talking about setting normal exams. They are crazy! The period we are traversing is not normal. There must be a way of tailoring our external exams to the exigencies of the crisis.
How long will summer classes be? There is no way that four to six weeks of classes in the summer can make up for lost time this school year. Furthermore, under normal circumstances, schools hold summer classes as a rule, and some teachers, especially senior teachers, do not get enough rest. During my school days teachers got their holidays, as did students. We didn't have this and we are not any worse off. Many students worked during the holidays.
Minister of Education Fayval Williams is a nice lady. She means well. Prime Minister Andrew Holness is a former minister of education. Could we have some discussion, then some consensus on the matter?
Norman W M Thompson is an educator. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login