So, the Government has decided to scrap the infamous clauses in the new law that concern training and proficiency tests linked to teachers’ warrants and licences. It has effectively avoided a countrywide teachers’ strike ordered by the MUT to happen on Monday. So far, so very good.
In the meantime, a barrage of opinions has been volleyed from all sides, some claiming this meddling by the government is uncalled for, others claiming that this show of force by the MUT is nothing but a political stance, while as usual the country splits down its middle to show its undying support or otherwise for the teachers. But in real terms, what does all this hullabaloo mean for those who will be the most affected – the children, the next generation being nurtured in our schools?
At first glance it is very easy to dismiss the MUT’s call for industrial action. ‘They’re asking for more’ we usually dismiss such news, before scrolling down to the next juicy news titbit. But this time around there’s more to this than just the standard call for better pay/conditions. What has seemingly irked the MUT so much is that in future, their members’ capabilities will be undergoing rigorous proficiency tests which will inadvertently affect their warrants and licences accordingly. In simple terms, they will have to prove their mettle to be able to continue in their profession as educators. Errrmmm… so where’s the problem in that?
One would think that the MUT has at its heart the wellbeing of ALL its members, as it should. However, in its scramble to safeguard those members who are way under par, members who will never make it through a proficiency test if it stood up and slapped them hard in the face (and there’s a good number of these so-called teachers who shouldn’t be trusted with a pet canary, let alone a child), it is effectively discriminating against its other members for whom a proficiency test will be a breeze and a godsend, an evaluation which will simply reaffirm their gifted skills as educators. If for the MUT, our children’s education is top priority, why is it protecting the incompetent few?
It is simply not fair to judge so many brilliant teachers who view their profession as a true vocation by the shenanigans of the inept few, but it is also not right that the latter ride on the hard work and devotion of the former, while they treat the education of young minds as nothing more than a lucrative job with lots of holidays thrown in. As a parent who has had to come up against the good, the bad and the ugly of the teaching profession for more than two decades, Clause 23 of the new law presented fresh hope that somehow, finally, the inept and incompetent will be forever weeded out of our children’s lives and classrooms.
My children have had the pleasure of encountering some extraordinary teachers throughout their school years; teachers who have worked magic and transformed an uninterested child into the most attentive, teachers who have gone to great lengths to make a dreary subject fun, teachers whose innovational skills have transformed average young minds into high-flying mavericks. For this, and I’m sure plenty of parents can agree, we’ll be forever grateful.
But my children have also encountered those whose lethargy and careless nonchalance have wreaked havoc on their education. The teacher who was too ‘tired’ to take the class out to the schoolyard during lunch hour, because you know, she had just had a baby. As if being a new mother, functioning on endless sleepless nights is a justifiable excuse for not doing properly a job you’re paid to do.
This sad occurrence happened for weeks on end until another teacher took pity on this class of eight-year-olds and used to do her utmost to give these children the chance of some fresh air. But that’s the thing; devoted teachers, inevitably end up picking up the slack of their blundering colleagues, which always ensures that the latter have an easy ride at the expense of our children and their same colleagues.
This sorry excuse for a teacher was also the one whose pupils’ grades, including my son’s, fell dramatically and consistently over the semesters – her excuse? ‘You can’t keep on expecting high marks as they get older’. Really? Children who were previously straight ‘A’ students, were barely passing their tests in her class. What is one to do? Report to the head of school? I did then, only to be looked on pityingly because there was nothing the head of school could do.
This is only one of many, many horror stories I have had to put up with over the years and am sure there are many others who have countless other stories to tell. Faced with this kind of incompetence, a parent’s only redress, was to pray to the Almighty that the moron masquerading as a teacher, had not inflicted long lasting damage on their child. Fervently praying to all the saints in the heavens that the subsequent year would see their child placed in a ‘capable’ teacher’s class, who would hopefully undo the damage from the previous year.
Why is it that there are always a couple of teachers in every school, who, if your child had to be lucky enough to land in their class, it would be akin to winning the lottery? Why aren’t ALL teachers of the approximately same standard which befits their sacred profession? Why as parents are we still putting up with the mediocre? It is highly apparent that now, with the rejected clauses within the new law, which perhaps were a step in the right direction in eradicating sub-standard teaching, we are stuck for years with the sorry scenario that once you’ve earned your teacher’s warrant, there’s practically nothing that will make you accountable, whether you are a shining light to the profession or an indifferent fool who couldn’t care less for the wellbeing of the students trusted in your care.
Why is it that for what is now standard practice for other professions, including accountants and insurance brokers to undertake CPE (Continuous Professional Education) to hold onto their warrants, cannot be applied to the teaching profession? Why are we aiding and abetting this kind of Russian Roulette with our children’s education? I am more than sure that for those for whom teaching is a vocation, regular evaluation is a welcome development in which their skills are appreciated and acknowledged. After all, accountability is part and parcel of any job and something which the rest of the professions have had to contend with for decades especially in the private sector. So why is this not also applicable for those responsible for the shaping of future generations?