Most days I enjoy being a doctor. I am not sure that there is anyone who enjoys his or her vocation every day, and if there is such a person kudos to you! There is a thrill I feel chatting with my patients, watching them improve their health, whilst achieving goals and targets. I also enjoy encouraging them during difficult life challenges. At some periods along my career I thought of leaving the profession and trying something else, especially after a long night on-call. However, of all the professions and career choices I entertained, there were two that I knew were not for me – nursing and teaching.
Before the nurses and teachers start rolling their eyes, or I get bad publicity and my name is slandered minutes after the article is published, give me a chance to explain myself. I am not speaking from the position of snobbery where I condescend to mingle with the likes of teachers and nurses. Certainly not! Quite the opposite. I deeply admire nurses and teachers and I do not believe that I could walk in their shoes on a daily basis. I will focus on teachers today only because the school term just started and the little and not so little ones are back out to formal schooling.
I have been blessed and I say ‘blessed’ because I have the privilege of raising two wonderful children. My daughter and son, ages ten and six respectively, have truly made my life richer since they were born. It may be the hair-raising stunts my son would try or the gentle comfort my daughter would offer in times of distress that let me know I truly am blessed. Whether it is that very early on they have understood who the authority figures are in their lives, or maybe by nature they are not stupid, they give us very little trouble. Therefore, if I am responsible for only two children and I spend an inordinate amount of time correcting, cajoling, encouraging, scolding, smiling, frowning, whispering, shouting and at times trying not to hit the roof, what about the teachers?
In some of our schools there are more than thirty (30) human beings for a teacher to manage. Yes, manage is what needs to be done in order for a classroom to function. When I was back at school just a few years ago, we had to stand when a prefect and even more so when a teacher entered the classroom. I have been reliably informed by friends in the teaching fraternity that in today’s world, some students do not even acknowledge the presence of a teacher in a class.
Apart from the large number of students in some of our classes, the one teacher has to deal with different personalities and different learning styles. Let us then add to the mix a child with personal problems at home, another who is not feeling well on a given day and those who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Just thinking about it gives me a headache.
To my knowledge, not one of these teachers is given a magic wand upon completion of his or her training to immediately turn a classroom into a veritable wonderland of learning. Teachers have to grin and bear it. Did I mention the limited resources available to them? By no stretch of the imagination am I knocking the Government and its provision of learning supplies and maintenance of the schools and classrooms. I am in full receipt of my faculties and I do understand the economic challenges we face as a country.
This is why I admire teachers so much. They take from their own (limited) resources and purchase supplies for their students. Many teachers make charts and plasticine, and do research on the internet and other places to enhance the learning experience for their students, OUR children. Consequently, it disturbs me greatly to hear parents make disparaging and degrading remarks about teachers and poison the minds of their children towards them, thereby making a difficult classroom environment even worse.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. I remember asking a teacher what the most rewarding thing was for her on the job. She thought about it for a bit and said – when a child understands something. I got goose bumps because I could feel the passion for her job in those few words. Despite the difficulties, for her, it was still about the primary focus of the mind of a child.
Teachers have that amazing power to mould and shape the destiny of a human being. Whilst the home should be the first place of learning, for many it is not. Some children are not taught good manners, other social graces and life skills until they are in schools at various stages. It is therefore my conclusion that teaching is just a broad category encompassing all the other roles involved in that job – mentor, nurse, coach, cheerleader, police officer, lawyer, arbitrator, counsellor, secretary, nutritionist, health advisor and the list goes on ad infinitum.
In the Bible in Matthew 22:14, it speaks about many being called but few being chosen and maybe I take it out of context in applying this to teachers. Not everyone who teaches is a teacher. I believe that teaching is a special gift, and it does not involve getting up in front of students, spouting information and hoping that during the eruption some of the intellectual lava sticks in the mind of the child. Some persons are involved in teaching for the wrong reasons and so we end up with many who are not truly interested in the lives of students.
To those who truly are the called and chosen ones for this worthy vocation I encourage you to stay the course. You may not see your reward at the end of the school day but rest assured one day you will.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])