A teacher’s story
With salary negotiation of teachers in the spotlight, one teacher says that teachers' jobs are not easy as their challenges in the classroom go beyond their paycheques.
For her, the indiscipline and disrespect are just the tip of the iceberg as time and again, teachers must also take on the role of parenting.
"There are students with poor nutrition, hungry students, students coming to school without proper breakfast or none at all, children with illnesses, and yet they are never taken by their parents to see a doctor," she said.
There are times, too, she said, when disabled students are placed in regular schools where there is no provision for dealing with their special needs.
For Sharon Green*, teachers' jobs are much harder when parents show little or no interest in their children.
"The parents do not contribute in any way to their children's schoolwork; students don't either. In fact, you have kids who disappear from school and reappear some months after," she shared.
Green, who teaches at a primary school in Clarendon and has been in the classroom for about 25 years, teaching at various levels - primary to high school - said that it is her heart and love for the profession that have seen her overlooking a lot of the challenges while still giving back.
"There are so many things that need to be fixed such as some parents sending children to school just so they can collect the PATH money, as well as toiling away in less than perfect conditions in the classroom," she pointed out, adding that the overcrowded classes divided solely by a chalkboard is not ideal for learning as the noise penetrates to students on the other side.
Adding her voice to the teachers' push for better salaries, Green said that she believed teachers are pushed around and taken for granted.
"We are hard-working nation builders who have played the role of everyone to students - we are parents, counsellors, nurses, caregivers, and much more. We play the role of ATM machines, too, because students come to the classroom with so many needs," she pointed out.
Green said that if there was one fact that she needed the public to be aware of it is that teaching is hard work, and more important, teachers have to fight hard to have any form of social life.
"Weekends and holidays for teachers are just names. Our schoolwork is always with us. One week's lesson takes anywhere between 14 to 20 pages. This has to be done every week. It cannot be done during school hours because teachers have students to monitor and especially the primary schools, where most teachers teach every subject," she shared.
The job, she said, also affects their health as many of her colleagues are plagued by urinary tract infections (UTI) because of the way school buildings are constructed.
"Bathrooms are sometimes too far from classes, and the fear of anything going wrong with your students in your absence has driven many of us to hold our urine for longer periods than we should. Hence we end up with a UTI," she pointed out.
With more than two decades in the classroom, Green said that students have always made notable impressions on her. However, she said that she would never forget one particular student who asked her for money to buy lunch one day.
"When I asked certain questions, he told me his mother was gone to work in another parish and there was only one egg at home, but it was left for the baby. That was about 10 years ago, and even today, it still bring tears to my eyes," she said.
*Name changed by request.