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'Just go teach' not that simple

shadiasimpson, shadiasimpson@nationnews.com

Added 10 January 2013

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When I hear people simply braying “go and teach de people children, do”, I have to ask myself what people really feel is involved in “teaching de people children”. Do they fully appreciate all that this entails? I admit that it’s a little difficult to explain without somebody accusing you of being patronizing and dismissive of other just as worthy tasks. I, for one, believe in the dignity of all work. Let’s face it; different tasks do have different levels of sophistication and demand different types of effort and different durations of training/apprenticeship depending on the nature and objective of that task. You agree? The task of a brain surgeon calls for a very different skill set and orientation than that of, say, a cane-cutter, to use the Prime Minister’s recent analogy. You agree? These tasks are no less significant and may be no less fulfilling to each of the respective people doing the task, but there are obvious differences. When we point out such differences between tasks, we do not have to place them within a hierarchical structure of this one is better than that one. That being said, effective teaching and pedagogy is a very specialized area. I realize that everyone feels s/he can teach . . . after all, we all had teachers, right? We all have doctors but does that mean we can practise medicine? Because we live in a house, can we be architects? We drive cars, so are we boss mechanics? Because we have teeth and hair, does that make us knowledgeable about dentistry or hairdressing? But when it comes to teachers and teaching, we adopt this really disrespectful air. “Teaching is sumting, doh? Just stan up in front de children and gih dem some notes leh dem copy down. Just talk bout de subjeck mattuh and leh dem listen and write down whuh you say. Do some sums pun de board and show dem how to get de answer. “Leh dem memrize some lines from Shakespeare and dem people so. An cut dey backside if dey cyan get it do cuz dey lazy. An cut dey backside if dey misbehave cuz dey wuffliss. Sounds familiar? The adjunct to this is, of course: “Man, you should be just glad you got a job, yuh. Don’t bodda bout nuh conditions you working undah. Dah’s not you bizness. Go an teach de people children do! “You getting victimize by de principal? LIME juss lay off 97 people, yuh! Steupse. Go and teach de people children do. Children getting manipulate? Steupse! Dah’s you bizness doh? You see dey parents complainin’? Look, teach de people children do! “Look, don’t care whey dey put you, don’t mind de one-week notice, don’t mind dat all dese children gine get disrupp. Hand-ovah what! Some people cyah even buy turnover! “You cyan teach auto-tronics? Well teach auto-phonics den – just go and teach de people children, do. Jam de facks in dey head. Let dem repeat whuh you say. Got duh copying down tings in dey books, yuh. Go an teach de people children, do.” No true educator can feel happy about either the idea or the reality of the recent spate of transfers, implemented as they were. Why? Because they have no pedagogical basis; no moral basis; no ethical basis; no human resource-development basis. A poem I once read told me that Between The Idea/And The Reality/Between the Motion/And The Act/Falls the Shadow. In this instance the shadow is the cynical attempt to destroy a union. It’s not about any concern for my children, your children, our children. The long list of difficulties created by this en masse transfer clearly illustrates this. There was no foresight, just malice. The teachers have clearly identified the myriad problems with mass transfers at this time . . . but then, again . . . teachers is people, doh? Dem know sumting? Steupse. By the way, the poem was entitled The Hollow Men.

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