By Oliver Mills
Caribbean News Now has reported that the education minister for St Kitts-Nevis has called for the restoration of respect for teachers and the teaching profession in his country. He links respect to the ability of the teacher to be effective, and proceeds to say that the profession has been diminished by some community members, and teachers themselves, who have treated their profession with indignity and disregard.
The minister does not say what is meant by respect, but I assume he means admiring someone for their qualities and values, and holding someone in high regard because of their accomplishments and contribution. Respect could also take the form of having an affinity towards someone, because of their particular disposition and approach to matters and issues, which make us feel we would like to be like that person. Respect also fosters trust and confidence in the other, and causes us to see the other as a model.
When the minister calls for the restoration of respect, it suggests that it has been lost, or given up on, since this is the only reason why its restoration is called for. But can respect be totally lost, and can it just as easily be restored? Or does it involve time and effort. How long does it take to restore, and would it have the same components or qualities, since values and thinking about certain issues change over time? How can we know that it has been restored? What would it look like? These are some of the complexities that are involved when we speak of respect, and bringing it back as a part of human behaviour. We cannot just say that we all know what it is, if we cannot define it, and know what it is when we see it.
Anyway, I agree with the minister on the need for respect, but not just for teachers and the profession, but for its permeation throughout the society. Because only when it is a total project that its anticipated results will be manifested. I also agree that respect is linked to effectiveness. When a teacher is respected, he or she becomes motivated, and aspires to work even harder, faster, and with greater commitment to the profession. He or she exercises greater care and sensitivity, and shows compassion and understanding towards those in his or her charge. The teacher also feels wanted, appreciated, and recognises that what he or she does counts, so that a previous sense of futility, is replaced with a feeling of worth, and being special and prized.
Further, when the profession is respected, younger persons seek to become a part of it, and resignations become minimal, since teachers have a new sense of what it means to be a professional. The teacher develops a greater self image, as well as self-respect. Performance is enhanced, creativity and entrepreneurship are further developed, as well as a new vision of his or her objectives and a sense of purpose. Life and work also have a deeper sense of meaning. When this happens, the teacher, the profession and the society are the beneficiaries. A new kind of student is fostered, with positive values, and a feeling of wanting to achieve and wanting to be better develops. All of this is because respect and the profession are given a new value, and the teacher gets the support of colleagues, students, and the wider society.
However, when the teaching profession is treated with indignity and disregard, by either the society or some teachers themselves, all the positives mentioned dissolve. Indiscipline sets in, values are disregarded, anything goes, and bullyism and all the negatives we know that take place in the school will become or remain a threat to the accomplishment of its objectives. Educational goals will be threatened, resources would be ineffective, and teaching becomes a mere activity with the aim of earning a salary, rather than a noble and transformative profession, that builds positive values, and educates the young for citizenship. Social disintegration occurs in the society, law enforcement is enhanced, and the corrective institution become overcrowded
It is important, then, that the teacher and the profession are treated with respect, high regard, and are highly valued. The survival of society itself as a functioning unit requires it. Caribbean governments should therefore formulate a philosophy of education which acts as an ethical guide to how the profession should conduct itself, what morals need to be stressed, what educational strategies need to be employed to achieve educational aims, and what the nature of the relationship should be between teacher and teacher, teacher and student, and teacher, student and the society. This philosophy should also clearly stipulate what programmes teachers should be exposed to, in order to promote the values that give them a sense of personal dignity and integrity, so that these are passed on to students.
When there is a clear and overarching view or conception of what the teaching profession entails, how it contributes to the building of a good society, and better human beings, respect becomes natural, as well as the new normal. Self-assurance, personal development and a sense of well being become essential ingredients of the professional repertoire of the teacher. The society also develops a sense of purpose and pride, since it is integrally involved through its support as a partner. A new consciousness of the role of its teachers is fostered, along with the added realisation that it played a great part in helping to produce these individuals with a new kind of ethical system to the benefit of all. (CaribbeanNewsNow)
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