Despite attacks, teachers urged to be role models in classroom
Amid outrage over a spike in school violence that has gone viral, Jamaican teachers have been urged to behave professionally and to be standard-bearers for moral values.
That call has come from Dr Lorna Gow-Morrison, the principal of Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College (SSTC), who spoke to The Gleaner following Thursday’s appreciation ceremony for former SSTC principal Dr Asburn Pinnock at the St James-based institution.
“There’s the need for all of us in the teaching profession to understand the behaviours that bring pride and esteem to our profession. Wherever we are, we have to ensure that we display professionalism at all times and remember that we’re role models, responsible for ensuring that core values are maintained and transmitted in acceptable ways,” said Gow-Morrison.
There have been several recent instances where students or their family members have attacked educators, with at least six of those taking place in western Jamaica since November.
This week has been particularly filled with drama. On Tuesday, principal of Homestead Primary School in St Catherine, Sophia Deer, and a student got into a brawl in her office after she reportedly attempted to intervene in a fight between students.
More than half the teachers were absent yesterday, apparently in protest against the leadership of the administration, thus jeopardising the hosting of Jamaica Day celebrations.
Besides the flooring of a dean of discipline at Oracabessa High School this week, students were also embroiled in an unconventional fight at Pembroke Hall High, throwing stools like bombs as a teacher scurried for cover. Pembroke Hall gained notoriety late last year when a teacher threatened to murder a student. She has since apologised to the school board.
“I’m very concerned because being at school is no longer safe for students or teachers. Teachers are not safe from students, students are not safe from other students, and the community no longer protects the school, but regardless of what’s happening in society and schools, I still see teachers as the persons who safeguard others,” added Gow-Morrison.
According to the teachers’ college principal, more information on the scope of violence in schools is needed before a concrete plan of action can be taken.
“I want to see data which might help us understand how many students in schools are violent, or to see the extent of which they are violent. Until the research is done, we’re not in a position where we can speak with certainty on what to do, so let’s use data to inform our actions,” said Gow-Morrison.At a press conference in Kingston last week, Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Owen Speid gave the Ministry of Education a 30-day deadline to submit a plan of action to tackle violence in schools.