Minister of Education Ronald Jones has made an impassioned plea to this country’s educators to be guarded in their remarks to their students, cautioning that their words could easily crush the hopes and dreams of children.
Delivering the featured address at Friday morning’s opening ceremony of the In-Service Certificate Programme at Erdiston’s Teacher’s Training College, Jones argued that it was almost impossible to undo the damage caused by hurtful utterances.
“As teachers we have to be so careful with what words come out of our mouths because when they come out, it doesn’t matter how much we apologize, we can’t pull them back. It has already penetrated the being of a delicate child,” said Jones, who was heavily criticized back in 2011 for suggesting that Barbadian children were possessed with “demons”.
His exact words back then were that “until many of our young people are cleansed of demons that are in their souls we will continue to get . . . [deviant] behaviour”.
However, without reference to those statement or any of his other controversial remarks that have landed him in public hot water, Jones, who is a former president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, said educators who unduly criticize children were partially responsible for the prevalence of anger in today’s society.
“I would like a conversation with many of our criminals or those who are borderline and about to cross over to a life of crime and ask them about their educational experiences to determine which teacher gave them hope, which teacher gave them a sense of wholeness or which teacher completely devastated them,” the Government minister said.
“Some of them may be seeped with anger and unable to reach out to the teacher physically, but they would reach out to a child with the anger that was created . . . . Think about these things because the self-reflective teacher constantly thinks about how these things impact upon their charges,” he stressed.
Jones, who has also famously suggested that this island’s military and police forces may have to “crack some heads” and “shoot some people” to “bring back law and order”, also contended that even though teachers may be burdened with personal issues, they must remain consummate professionals in the face of outside challenges.
“I recognize in our humanity there are many problems we carry on our shoulders, there are many pains we carry in our beings. However as a professional we have to think before we speak, knowing that the damage done now is a damage that could possible last a lifetime,” he warned.
“Teaching has never been about Math, English or Literature or the subjects on the curriculum, it has never been about that. Those [subjects] are only by-products of a transformation that the teacher, tutor or instructor encourages. It is like the master cutter that shapes the crude diamond into a beautiful polished diamond, which reflects light and colour.
“Teachers must see themselves as master craftsmen and women. In every child there is a crude diamond waiting to be shaped,” he stressed.