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Present, Miss! – An educator’s guide for the new school year

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMAretha P. Willie
Students in class at the opening of the new school year at the Naggo Head Primary School in Portmore.

The Gospel according to St Luke 12:48 states: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much require."

These simple but powerful words from the scriptures have become my conscience as I eagerly anticipate the start of the 2015-2016 academic year.

I will refuse to embrace the pessimism that threatens to derail all the lofty plans and targets, and to be reminded that I am blessed beyond measure. The Master, himself, was called 'teacher', and as school administrators we need to realise that we are called to a 'ministry', and so, much is required of us.

The challenges will be relentless, but we will graciously accept them and give of ourselves, like never before. Thus, our first action is to stop and laugh at ourselves!

Imagine this - on Monday, September 7, 2015, as we stand away from the activities in our individual schools, and admire the staff and students neatly groomed and ready to tackle all the obstacles that inevitably wait.

No doubt, all the students having resolved to being the brightest, the teachers committed to being the best that have ever walked the school's corridors, and the janitors promising themselves to clean the grounds so thoroughly that there will be no need for administrators to seek out their hideouts.

The vision continues to get better, as ALL our teachers have recommitted to spending more than 61 per cent of their contact time teaching, and less time on behaviour modification; as the Honourable Minister Thwaites had recommended that the 'leggo beasts' must stay home.

However, we welcome the 'leggo beasts', as we will tame and 'whip' them into shape. Oops, I meant tame and train them. In short order, we will thunderously declare "Singapore, eat your heart out." We would truly be on par with the best.

For those of us still without a board of management after nine months, we will dutifully ensure meetings are scheduled as required, knowing full well that absolutely no decisions can be made until the board is ratified. We are not daunted, but will use the time to plan and strategise, and if time allows to possibly twiddle our thumbs as our superiors.

We will continue to be grateful to the parents who drop their babies off at the nursery called primary school at 6 a.m. and then return to collect them at 6 p.m. We will profusely express gratitude to them for our 12-hour shift. After all, didn't we just receive a massive seven per cent increase?

What about the students who live across the road from school, who arrive at 9 a.m. sharp for a 7:50 a.m. start? It is time that we honour these students with 'The Better Late than Never Award'.

It is not our duty to marginalise our charges just because they are late every morning, but to welcome them with open arms, and whisper words of encouragement. We will leave the punishment to their future employers, when they are dismissed from every job.

As head teachers, we will insist that our teachers slavishly continue to 'publish' voluminous works called lesson plans, which we will spend equally considerable time marking. So much so that when we arrive at school the following morning, we would have earned our less-than-complimentary aliases, due to a lack of sleep.


Nutrition nightmare


The recurrent nightmare called nutrition, whereby our children dine on cheese-trix for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and so predictably sleep fitfully between these meals. We promise not to abuse the distribution of the bullas and bag juices sent by the ministry, but to ensure that the students are provided with this balanced alternative.

We will abandon all thoughts of further studies, as we will be so fully engaged in completing our NCEL thesis, that all thoughts of family and recreation will become a thing of the past. Then, as creative educators, we will rescript the popular nursery rhyme - All work and no play makes a principal keep her job!

I daresay, that is only an iota of the myriad issues/problems that will plague school administrators during the month of September. October promises to be more inventive, and will no doubt borrow from September's sorrow. The month of November and beyond guarantees that we will be engaged in heated self-discussions, while tearing out every strand of hair. It's no wonder that most head teachers are ardent wig wearers!

So, colleague principals, when the education officers call to enquire about the start of the academic year, 2015-2016, our resounding response will be "Irie, everyting criss and curry"!

Best wishes, all education stakeholders, for an awesome academic year, 2015-2016!

- Aretha Willie is a primary school principal and passionate educator.