Jamaica owes teachers a raise


Monday, March 19, 2018

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I noted that as a result of the Jamaica Teachers' Association action several members of the Jamaican society have been sharing hateful and downright disrespectful comments about teachers on social media. Some of these comments include, “Teachers too greedy…why dem feel like dem betta dan other public-sector workers…teachers don't deserve a raise because nuff a dem not doing anything but collecting pay at the end of the month…police and nurses more important and them not complaining.”

Further analysis of this issue has caused me to realise that members of the society are either severely ignorant of what it really means to be a teacher or unable to voice their views without being disrespectful — as they should have learnt in basic school. However, since I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, I will enlighten their darkness in hopes of hushing their impulsive hogwash.

First of all, teachers are role models, parents, guidance counsellors, friends, tutors, lecturers, secretaries, lawyers, doctors/nurses, caretakers, policemen and women, providers, engineers, artists and, most importantly, motivators. What members of the society fail to realise is that teachers are the ones who build every single career. Teachers are the ones who put in the extra time, go the extra mile, work literally 24/7 to build a better Jamaica and, ultimately, a better world. How do we do this? We spend hours planning lessons for every single class we teach because no group of students is the same, so we must cater to a variety of learning styles, needs and multiple intelligences.

We spend every single day in uncomfortable suits or “professional wear” in a hot classroom filled with up to 70 students, in some cases, moving around, engaging students, motivating uninterested students to learn and strive to make something positive of their lives, and instilling positive morals and values into students so that they may become productive members of society. In those same overcrowded classrooms we teachers are manoeuvring disrespectful students, bullies, students with psychological issues, gifted students who need special attention, students will special needs; also 'parting' fights, in some cases battling sexual harassment, showing love to troubled students, all while trying to achieve the miracle of teaching and getting students to learn something in the one hour of class time.

Even with smiles on our faces, we are, at times, losing our sanity while ensuring that we maintain “professionalism”. When we aren't teaching we are counselling students; replying to several e-mail; attending frequent staff meetings, parent's meetings, grade -level meetings, departmental meetings, workshops, competitions with clubs; we are responsible for marking books, marking exams, setting exams, vetting exams, photocopying and printing several papers for classes, writing evaluations, planning competitions, as well as chasing after students and their parents/guardians for overdue work because students aren't allowed to get zeros on their reports.

Second, I would just like to know when it became acceptable for the society to treat us like “teacha bwoy” and “teacha gyal”. When did it become acceptable for society to insult teachers and spew hateful, hurtful, rude, unnecessary, irrelevant comments at us? It is very funny that these same people find time to quarrel with and disrespect teachers, yet they cannot find the time to teach their children basic manners and respect. It is quite fascinating to see people spending hours on social media putting in their two cents yet they are the same ones forgetting to send their children to school with lunch money. They are the same ones who are ready to fight against teachers yet they do not even show up for parent-teacher consultations or show the slightest interest in their child's progress or well-being at school. These people are the ones who do not even teach their children to clean up after themselves, but instead spend the time to teach children that they have a right to back answer teachers or do as they please. When these same persecutors are finished, we teachers are the ones who pick up the slack and give students lunch money, share our lunches with them, teach them how to say “good morning”, teach them how to respect their environment and keep it clean, give them the love they do not receive at home. It is said that the home is the first school, but realistically children do not learn half of the basic positive things they should know and practise until they start school.

Third, teaching isn't just a job. It is a voluntary pledge to make the world a better place; one student at a time. It is a sacrifice of our spare time, our social life, our sanity, and of ten times our pride.

Jamaica owes teachers a raise; not just in salary, but a raise in gratitude, a raise in respect, and a raise in appreciation! I know I speak for at least 80 per cent of Jamaican teachers when I say that no amount of money paid to us can ever really compensate us for all the hard work that we do; all the hours of family and relaxation time we lose working; and for the stress, illnesses and emotional trauma we endure, but ignore, just so that we can build a better Jamaica. We teachers work assiduously to raise Jamaica's children; love Jamaica's children, despite rude behaviour; educate Jamaica's children about cleanliness, godliness, respect for others, and self-respect; motivate Jamaica's children; feed Jamaica's children; school Jamaica's children and prepare them for every career that they desire to pursue. We teachers provide quality education, despite all odds. When the ministry fails to provide adequate resources, we are the ones who “tun wi hand mek fashion” just so we can get students to learn and produce results. Without teachers' invaluable contributions, Jamaica cannot and will not ever be the place to live, work, study, raise families, and do business.

The time has come for members of the society to do away with that rotten mentality of “teacha bwoy” and “teacha gyal” and show us the respect and appreciation we deserve and leave us to strike in peace. It is time for members of the society to spend less time criticising teachers and more time helping us to raise Jamaica's children; the very same children they produce and hand over into our care.

Finally, if teaching is so easy, and if people still fail to see the value, purpose and importance of teachers, and show us the respect we deserve, then I implore every complainant to pull his/her child out of school, keep them at home, and teach them yourself! If complainants believe that they are in the least capable of and qualified to teach, then they should not have a problem teaching students in the comfort of their own homes. This is my challenge to every single person in the society with a grouse against teachers. Or, maybe, they could come and try to spend even just five minutes in my classroom trying to manage my class.

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