Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
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The epidemic of disgruntled teachers

Dear Editor,

Just like that, a simple swish of the pen changes the way instruction takes place in the Bahamian classroom.

While novice teachers are often warned to keep away from disgruntled teachers, it is soon that one understands why teachers become this way. One of the foremost reasons why teachers become disgruntled is because, in themselves, they know when initiatives passed by the Ministry of Education are good in theory but irrational in practice.

Such an initiative is the Ministry of Education’s “Wildly Important Goal” or W.I.G (another initiative that increases workload, leads to teacher burnout and poses no real incentive for an already poorly paid profession). This initiative is one of those moves that leads novice teachers to understand why teachers become disgruntled, as well as why the teacher’s union is a necessary instrument.

The question is, what makes former educators, once placed in administrative positions, so disenchanted with the realities of the Bahamian classroom? Such a question requires an understanding that part of the ministry’s plight to improve this notion of a national average means travelling to developed nations and adopting best practices, which fails to take into account socio-economic implications, and the interplay of other social factors on student performance. In other words, the ministry must understand the simple logic that, that which is best practice in Sweden is not the same in The Bahamas.

It is likely that this W.I.G edict, which has the aim of increasing student test performance and ultimately the graduation rate, has been altogether adopted from a place bearing no resemblance to the Bahamian classroom, and by large our society’s social norms.

Then there’s the issue of frequent assessments and the inevitable test fatigue students are doomed to face because of the foregoing initiative. For instance, assessing students on one form of writing this month, and another the following month, even when they haven’t mastered the last, is unreasonable and sets students up for failure. The most obvious thing that makes unit testing a flop is the interruptions the school term is susceptible to face, which takes away from instruction time. For one, how do these constant interruptions in schools affect this wildly important goal by the ministry?

The whole initiative leads educators to question, is this initiative to improve student performance or is it another scheme to kill teachers out by increasing the workload? Is it another aim to validate the idea that teachers are not teaching the curriculum, and therefore must be given some form of structure?

Either way, no matter the justification behind the ministry’s W.I.G initiative, it only goes to show how alienated these former teachers turned policymakers have become. Out with the empty rhetoric served by politicians that promise hardworking (or overworked) teachers the pay and opportunities they deserve, and the incentive-less moves which are rotting education to the core.

– Glenn King

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