AWRIGHT DEN: No longer teaching
ON MARCH 16, in an article titled Why I Marched, I mentioned that I was a civil servant again. In February I had the privilege again of serving as a teacher in one of our secondary schools.
On Sunday evening I found out that I would not be returning to the school for this term. It was a surprise to me since I was hoping I would have returned given that my temporary teacher evaluation report at the end of the last school term was exemplary.
I must say that although there were frustrations and disappointments, I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay. The staff was supportive and made my experience pleasant; there was an open door policy with management and administration; ancillary staff were friendly and gave advice where necessary, and the students, though challenging at times, brought great value to the job and made sure each day I had something to laugh about.
Honestly, it didn’t feel like I was out of the classroom for three years and six months. I am indeed grateful for the opportunity to have made a positive and significant impact in the lives of my students and that impact was greater at the personal development level for them than it was academically.
I want to use this opportunity to give some recommendations that I believe will add to the teachers’ and students’ experience within schools.
1. Support for the guidance counsellor
The role of the guidance counsellor is more critical today than it was in the past. Students are faced with greater challenges and many of them have no parental support or other means of support to help them. I am a parent of three and my wife and I feel overwhelmed many times. Imagine one guidance counsellor responsible for 700 children.
It may be a challenge to find additional guidance counsellors to attach to each secondary school, so I am offering this recommendation.
There are many full-time students who are pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies in social work and psychology who I believe can be of great assistance to guidance counsellors. I believe within the degree programme there can be an internship incorporated that will allow students to be attached to primary and secondary Government schools to assist guidance counsellors in their work. This would have advantages for the secondary school, the university, the guidance counsellor, the university and secondary school students as well as parents and guardians.
2. Medical care
Students and staff fall ill daily but more so students. Teachers culturally are expected to be jacks of all trades and there is this expectation they are “nurses or doctors”. I want to recommend that nurses be attached to schools, even if it is on a rotation basis, and schools have dedicated sick bays with nebulisers.
3. Canteen menus
Have you ever heard about a “half and half”. It is a national meal sold at canteens within some of our schools and children eat it every single day. A “half and half” is a small styrofoam container which has fried chips in one half and macaroni pie in the other, with both covered in ketchup. It is normally accompanied by a soft drink.
I believe management needs to have greater control on what our children eat. I am not saying that canteens cannot sell pie or chips, but I believe they shouldn’t be sold every day and healthier meals should be offered. I understand the need to make money but the health of our children is more important. When I was living in Australia, Ribena was banned from being sold in all schools due to its high sugar content, and there was a country I visited where soft drinks were not allowed to be sold in any schools.
4. Disregard for school rules
I remember the opposition the late principal of Graydon Sealy Secondary, Mr Matthew Farley, faced when he took a stance against parents willfully sending their children inappropriately dressed to school. From hairstyles, especially one called Scabbical 2, to parts in boys’ hair, to pants, shoes, watches and earrings, students from many schools – supported by their parents – are disregarding the dress code. This needs to be stamped out as we must always remember that what we turn a blind eye to during these formative and critical years will become a problem for society in the future.
• Corey Worrell, a former Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, is director of C2J Foundation Inc., a project-based NGO focusing on social development. Email: [email protected]