JEFF BROOMES: Don’t forget the reason for Teachers’ Day
A FEW DECADES ago, the two major teachers unions negotiated the initiation of a Teachers’ Professional Day. None of the actors leading the unions these days was involved in the process. Their constant claims that are in conflict with what actually happened leave me in awe.
Fewer than ten years ago, when I served as president of the Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, the Ministry of Education convened a meeting of all education unions. This was attended by BUT, BSTU, BAPPSS and APPS.
This meeting’s agenda was confined to the sanctity of Teachers’ Professional Day. The meeting was engaging and direct. There were teacher-specific submissions from the leaders of the unions, especially the then BUT president (Karen Best) and the leaders of the BSTU (Patrick Frost and Mary Redman).
The leaders of the principals’ organisations spoke quite directly to the annual disruption that impacted their schools on this specific day. The ministry officers exercised great skill and ability to keep order and focus throughout the meeting.
After a decision had been arrived at thatdid not support the position of the BSTU,they requested a short break for them to leave the room and have an in-house discussion. This was granted. They then returned and accepted the decision which was then unanimously adopted.
Teachers’ Professional Day, it was agreed, was to be the sole domain of the schools to work on teacher professional issues and how they can more positively impact student performance. Any union that wanted to host a specific activity should communicate with the ministry, but it should not conflict with the established Teachers’ Professional Day.
It was shocking to discover the next yearthat one union, the BSTU, had disrespectedthat agreement and had flagrantly gone forward to go in conflict with schools. The minister,whom they claimed had authorized this, disputed this. He was in Europe at the time but theemails from him to me and others made his position very clear.
The fact that this teacher organisation has been allowed to continue in this vein speaks to decided weakness from within the Ministry of Education. All teachers are supposed to report to work on that day and be part of the school activity intended to enhance its strategic focus.
Absence from duty should be treated in the same way as those who absented themselves to attend different BUT meetings. Anything short of this speaks to partiality. The BSTU has a right to schedule a meeting to further their purpose once granted permission, but it should not conflict with the work of the school.
The fact that one of the parties to theagreement can now be in the public media making a request for two days ostensibly to discuss, “Macro-professional issues, not teaching methodologies because the schools can deal with that,” is a concern.
I have no problem supporting the union in having two days if they see that as necessary. Like in most educational domains this can be executed at anytime during the different vacations.
I agree with the president of the BUT when he says that teachers need the day for professional development. This is seriously undermined when several teachers are absent from the training and from the incorporating decisions that are necessary to take the school forward.
Ministry of Education, our profession is seeking guidance and leadership. Please save TPD!
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also serves as vice president of the Barbados Cricket Association and director of the
West Indies Cricket Board. Email: [email protected]