One of the sad things about living in Guyana is to see persons who only just started working earning more than their teachers. That is something which should not happen.
Teachers have to understand their true and complete role as educators. But the process does not begin in the teachers’ training school; the process has to begin with teachers being given the recognition that would allow them to be motivated to practise being true and complete educators.
This true role as educators is not something that can be taught in a classroom setting. It is something that must be instilled within the very young, so that they can look up towards their teachers and have respect for them.
Helping teachers to understand their true role as educators has to begin with the appropriate recognition for the value of service they provide.
For some time now, the service provided by teachers has been undervalued. Teachers are being derecognised in this country, by virtue of the importance that is being paid to their well-being and the lack of appreciation and respect that is being shown to them by parents and students alike.
It is a depressing situation which began with the decline in the economy in the early eighties. The economic hardships of that time forced some teachers to take items to school to sell in order to make ends meet. It also pressed them into offering extra lessons so as to supplement their income.
But things were not always this way. There was a time when students looked up to teachers to the extent that teachers often set the fashion of the day.
School girls were often seen whispering to one another about some lovely skirt, dress or shoes that a teacher wore, and some male teachers dressed so impeccably that even some of the female students developed crushes on them.
The teacher was a symbol of respect. They were admired. They were role models for the children, sometimes simply by virtue of their appearance.
However, there was a time when the economic crisis took a toll and some teachers began to wear shoes that were tired at the front and worn at the heels. Their clothes became shoddy and the children therefore had less to admire than before. Being children, the appearance of these teachers soon became the object of ridicule and even of the coining of false names.
Students whose parents were better off began to dress better than the teachers and some were haughty enough to make a point of emphasising this.
The result was that over time, teachers began to be looked down upon rather than being looked up at. Students began to look elsewhere for their role models and this is where the problems with mentoring began.
If we wish to restore the true and complete role of teachers within our schools, it has to begin with instilling greater respect for the teachers. And this has to begin not in the training institutes, but in the appearance of teachers within schools.
Any teacher who has worn a new shirt or an eye-catching blouse or skirt knows about the reaction of students when the teacher steps into the classroom with her new attire.
That is real life drama and we should not deny our students that experience of being awed by a teacher impressing with some dashing piece of clothing.
Teachers should be allowed to be flashy once the clothing is not too revealing. They should be allowed to be fashionable, but again not show too much skin.
The reason for this is that many young ladies admire their female teachers just as how many boys admire their male teachers. And so the teachers must recognise that they will in some way be imitated and be role models for their students. They must dress in a way that draws admiration but which is not “common”.
Through their appearance, teachers must present themselves as good role models.
Not all of them may be able, on their salaries, to dress fancily but they can all ensure that they are dapper, neat and tidy. This is where the respect begins.
Each day teachers should make an impression by the way they present themselves in front of their students. The first impression for students is not the whip of the teacher but the teacher’s appearance.
It is easy for a student to disrespect a teacher that does not take an interest in his or her appearance, but a teacher who makes a statement by the way he or she dresses is always going to be admired and respected.
But teachers cannot be expected to dress well when they are paid poorly, and that is why the best way for the Ministry of Education to begin to instill in teachers their true and complete roles is to take a look at their pay packets.
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