Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Teaching isn't what it used to be

Published:Monday | August 31, 2015 | 8:00 AM

Recently, the media reported that Dinthill Technical High School has been mandating that students and parents sign a document agreeing that parents will remove their children who fail to perform. The school defended its action, explaining that the agreement would only be invoked after all other efforts have been exhausted.

Well, it definitely goes without saying that teaching isn't what it used to be. This is true on two fronts: (1) students are certainly nothing like what they used to be; and (2) as a general rule, teachers aren't what they used to be either.

My mother is a retired teacher who taught almost all of her working life. Now, at 89, she keeps her mind very active, especially with just about everything that her iPad has to offer in the way of information, education, entertainment and communication. Just a few years ago, she taught my niece, Savannah, mathematics to help her matriculate for university. The point is this: She loves knowledge and she loves teaching.

 

Loving one's students

 

The phrase 'Treat every child as your own' best described her attitude towards the children she taught. It was her passion - it will always be her passion. In her early years, she used to stay after regular school hours to tutor selected students who were experiencing difficulty grasping certain topics - and she always did it for free.

I know that she's exceptional, but there are still quite a few teachers like her around. Sadly, the truly passionate and devoted teachers are extremely frustrated because the conditions under which they work, in our so-called modern society, usually preclude dedication and magnanimity.

Today's society has undergone tremendous change in a very negative way. Many people have become crass, miserable, volatile, undisciplined and easily violent. This transformation produced innumerable youngsters who have no respect for anything and anybody, except for the powerful and vicious. They come from homes where they are often exposed to violence along with verbal, physical and sometimes sexual abuse.

Many youngsters have absolutely no interest in education; the notion of getting rich quickly, striking it big by any means and 'buss' (break out with a hit in the music industry) is pervasive. To their flawed way of thinking, it is impossible for a 'likkle teecha-man or a likkle teecha-woman' to help them achieve their goals. Consequently, they have no respect for school or any desire to waste their time trying to learn things they think are irrelevant and alien to their world.

 

Losing hope

 

I know many teachers who started out trying very hard to be inspirational and to teach well. But, after years of frustration, ingratitude and abuse from students and parents, many of the good ones who began full of enthusiasm, lofty ideals and verve lost hope and the ability to muster the energy to impart knowledge except perfunctorily.

I know teachers who have to literally plead with students to allow them to teach their classes. Some have to calmly ask recalcitrant students to stop smoking weed in class. Some can no longer stomach the routine assailment with lewd and indecent language on the school compound. Such behaviour is by no means confined to the upgraded secondary schools; it also exists in some traditional high schools.

Repetitively time-wasting, violent and/or disruptive students bring down the school and are a terrible influence on others, so I can understand why the administration at Dinthill Technical High School required the signing of that document However, I don't agree with it.

In spite of everything, we cannot give up on even a single student. It may mean creating special class structures for the non-achievers, but we can't eject them from the only system that may offer them a real future in life.

Notwithstanding our hostile society, unpleasant working conditions in many schools, the pressures being brought to bear by the hierarchy, the many frustrations, the inability to pay their monthly bills all the time, and financial stagnation, we need to encourage and uplift our teachers and remind parents/guardians that without educated citizens, our nation is doomed.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.