Wednesday, 06 February 2013 02:30
By Donyelle Bird-Browne-Editor
As we go through Education Week 2013, many a discussion has arisen about schools, curriculum, new technology, funding etc.
I would like to address the need to keep the requests for public discourse on methods of evaluations and reviews at the forefront. Everything from higher admission standards for all teacher training programmes to classroom management training, and we simply cannot overlook the need to enhance the leadership abilities of the current and future teachers of Antigua & Barbuda. These are the people who inform, educate, and also are supposed to set positive examples for our children.
Education is and always should be, ripe for change. The global arena has the advantage of being able to use talent from anywhere in the world. It is of vital importance for our students to be educated to the best of all abilities. In my opinion, and sadly so, before we can accomplish this, we first need to change the way teachers are viewed by students, parents, and the society at large. Teachers also need to change the way they view themselves and their roles. It has to be a partnership featuring open communication. Are we all on the same page? I think not.
We would all do well to acknowledge the vital role of teachers in a society that simply doesn’t understand that we couldn't have been successful without them, (albeit teachers back then were certainly something to be reckoned with) and our children cannot be successful without them.
That said, our teachers need to be fully on board for the challenge and invest time and effort in leading this charge. Are our teachers ready? Do they have the education and the tools to effectively succeed?
This critical role of teachers as leaders sometimes gets lost in a public conversation that is focused on red tape, policies, private and government funding, and practices that seldom have anything at all to do with the day-to-day running of a school. But I refuse to believe that there is such a disconnect between a teacher training programme and actually functioning as a teacher to accomplish the end result; the success of the school in order to attract the great teachers with the knowledge, vision and heart; to attract the students for molding and building and sending out into that oh-so-competitive global arena as a success in their own right.
Teacher training programmes, initial and ongoing, can do more to prepare our teachers to be leaders in their classrooms, their schools, and in their environs.
It begins with attracting the very best of characters to the education system. However, that attraction better translate into making sure they stay and grow within that environment. They need to be satisfied professionally and supported in order to be agents of change. Positive change.
By no means is this task insurmountable, but by no means is it easy. Teachers have to deal with changes in curriculums, or struggle with curriculums that are lacking and in need of changes, parental “over-emphasis” on high grades, parental disinterest, stressed out students, and in some cases, the heart rending problem of trying to capture and keep the attention of a student who may not have eaten since the day before or who may have no permanent home to go to when the school day ends. In this environment, pressure is all consuming.
Admirably, most (unfortunately not all) of our teachers are consummate and caring believers in their chosen profession. Every day, these teachers remind themselves and us as parents that they are mentors and leaders, role models worthy of emulation both in the classroom and out.
Our teachers need to be excellent communicators who are capable of working with their colleagues toward achieving improvement not only in their students’ learning and knowledge, but in theirs as well. They must continuously seek to learn.
Attention today more than ever is squarely on the various school systems, exams, and accreditations. Training programmes and higher learning needs to support teachers and assist in their success.
Read me carefully. Qualified, experienced, and communicative teachers who are positive role models should be the only ones allowed into our schools through teacher training and education programmes to be able to be in a position to help students and future teachers to grasp and understand the criteria required to be phenomenal students, teachers, and leaders within their schools and society.
Society would do well to proactively exercise outreach, support, and communication.
Schools need to encourage relationships locally with the private and the public sector. Students hired for internships, and as they graduate from learning institutions, set an example and can seek to influence education by giving back and knowledge sharing. They have a major role in the education discussion nationally.
The end goal is continuous improvement in the quality of our teachers, and encouraging leadership skills for them, for our students, and for our Antigua & Barbuda. We have to work as a team toward the strengthening of our teachers training; we must continue at all costs to respect and value the importance of teachers as leaders in our society.