The over-pressured pipe that burst in the Pembroke Hall High School classroom recently was simply one of many. Nothing new. Teachers who spend day after day trying hard to teach and discipline rotten-behavioured students will have mental breakdowns. Just as many parents do. Sadly, many frustrated and oppressed teachers oftentimes become oppressors themselves.
It is really unfortunate that Ms Marsha-Lee Crawford lost her cool.
With that said, the video of her that has been circulated has only brought to light an issue that has consistently been swept under the rug – the emotional well-being of our teachers.
There are many Ms Crawfords out there in our school system, about to lose it. Many have lost it. It just so happens that this teacher was caught on camera. Clearly, there is a problem here that needs to be addressed.
Most teachers see the elephant in the room – di bruk-bad pickney dem. Some teachers have been benumbed by the mannerless behaviour of their students. Others simply cannot cope. And the rest have found a way to drive such fear into the minds of their students that they dare not cross certain boundaries. Either way, trying to control a class of 40 students with vastly different levels of temperament is difficult, especially when parents, school administrators and the society at large seem to always be in the know as to what the teacher is just not doing right.
Teachers must use more technology. Teachers must control their students’ bad behaviour. Teachers must address the students individually. Teachers must carry water in the straw basket, etc. We have heard it all before. And it simply adds to the unmanaged frustration.
What is hypocritical, though, is that apparently, we are all so ‘shocked’ at what happened in the classroom with this teacher. Jamaica has cherished a culture of violence that is not only reflected but promulgated, especially through our music, other forms of media and our everyday interactions with each other.
What Ms Crawford said to her student was nothing that students at Pembroke Hall would not generally say among themselves. At some point, we will need to attack the issue at its root and stop engineering Band-Aid solutions. Teachers are expected to operate at a standard higher than that of their students, while the entire society (including teachers) suffer from a culture of aggression. This culture cannot be curbed except through interventions made within the home by parents. After all, teachers are also grown within these homes, many of which are foundationally broken.
In some schools, teachers are feigning sick just to avoid showing up to classes that they just can’t control.
How did we get to this point? The underbred, bratty kids did not spring up from out of nowhere. They were grown (or not grown).
MANY TEACHERS ARE RUINED
When parents themselves in some cases can’t manage their own children, what are teachers expected to do? Teachers’ colleges simply can’t do enough to endow their teachers with superhuman abilities. Perhaps we expect too much of teachers. Teachers are not parents. They shouldn’t be bugged down every day with having to discipline bad-behaving students. But it’s what they must do in order to carry out their lessons, since, obviously, students can’t learn in classes where chairs are being thrown and students are cursing at each other.
The truth is, many teachers are past the point of no return. They will never return to the sweet, caring, flowery classroom aunts of love that they once were. They are ruined. And it is perhaps best for everyone that they move on. But they won’t. Dem need a work. Just like everybody else. And with no other qualifications but teacher qualifications, what can they do?
The sanity of our teachers is at stake. Let’s work on things for the next generation of teachers before they burn out, too.
And finally, put to death the heedless and moronic comments about young teachers and their so-called lack of ‘classroom management skills’. Both the young and the young at heart have been through the same training. It is the students’ attitudes towards the teachers that differ.
Anyway, the young, inexperienced and clearly unappreciated young teachers have no problem wielding their frock tails and donning their coats to leaving the country for greener pastures. Then we will have a pure breed of teaching stalwarts who know their stuff. The five or six of them can teach the nation’s children.
Kristen Gyles is an educator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.