World Teachers’ Day Union warns: no more lip service

POSTED: 10/5/12 1:11 PM

St. Maarten – Education stakeholders and even parents ought to evaluate the way they treat teachers especially during today’s World Teachers’ Day observance. So says the Windward Island Teachers Union (Witu) who in a bold message to mark the event has reminded the country that educators have needs as well.

“Teachers need so many things to effectively educate our future generations. Not just classroom supplies, smaller class sizes, teaching material and other physical things, but teachers need emotional support from the community. They need to be respected, and need to be looked upon as human beings who, every day, go above and beyond what is expected of them.

Too often though, teachers are blamed: for a student’s failing grades, for a school’s poor performance on certain tests. In fact, sometimes teachers are the first to be blamed should something go wrong with a student or within the school. A failing educational system? Blame the teachers. No books to teach the children? What are we paying school fees for? Teachers make too much money and have too many “free” days. That is the general perception of teachers nowadays. Nothing could be further from the truth,” vice president of Witu, Corinne Lejuez-Van Putten said.

This year’s theme for World Teachers’ Day is Take a Stand for Teachers. The union has answered the charge saying that today’s observance should serve as a reminder of the jobs teachers do globally, often under “terrible circumstances.”

It has urged that people “take a good hard look to your teachers. What time do they arrive at school in the morning? What time do they leave? Are they at school on a weekend? Do they sometimes reach into their own pockets to give to a less fortunate child? Do they volunteer when no one else wants to? Are they always ready with a word of encouragement to give you the push that you sometimes need?”

The union was more than willing to offer advice to educational authorities.

“To education stakeholders, we say: Take a look at the way you view teachers and change that. Make resources available to teachers who are suffering financially and emotionally. Be teacher-friendly. Don’t just speak words of appreciation, show it. Make sure teachers’ wages are paid on time; make sure teachers’ work permits are processed in a timely fashion so they don’t fear getting picked up by police because their papers are not in order. Recognize them for their years of service starting at 10 years and up. Recognize their need for professional development by encouraging it. Think about the teachers’ work load, before adding more tasks. Seriously start looking at rewarding teachers with sabbaticals to avoid brain-drain and job-related stress. In short, no lip service please, actions speak louder than words.”

Lejuez-Van Putten also addressed parents on how to show gratitude for the work educators are doing on the island.

“Look to your child’s teacher and say thank you. Thank you for the late nights you spent over lesson plans, trying to figure out how to help that special child. Thank you for staying late at school to work with a child who has needs. Thank you for arriving early to school to get some more work done. Thank you for talking to me honestly about what I can do to help my child. Thank you for taking a call that pulls you away from your own family. Thank you for your financial help and your words of encouragement. Thank you for the pride you show when a student (present or former) succeeds and remembers you,” she suggested.

Witu ended by offering congratulations to the more than 200 teachers who work at public and private schools on both sides of the island.

According to Education International (EI), this year’s theme is a clear call to all stakeholders to acknowledge teachers’ crucial role in transforming the lives of learners at all levels of education. Moreover, the day should be a time to reflect on the difficult economic and social context in which teachers work and find ways of improving their professional status and working conditions and those of all education personnel.

“Governments, worldwide, claim to support the values and principles in the Recommendations (on the Status of Teachers). However, many do not actually demonstrate respect for the rights enshrined in them, nor do they implement policies that comply with them,” EI has concluded.

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