Wednesday, April 17, 2024

JEFF BROOMES: What it means to be a teacher


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MANY YEARS ago I made a decision to be a teacher. As I reflect on what informed that decision I think of so many teachers who would have impacted my life and taken me to a higher place of comfort and understanding than I would have experience in my home in Speightstown.

My every purpose throughout my career was to make the same impact on children. I saw myself as their saviour, their advocate and their source of comport and scaffolding to reach greater levels of understanding, sensitivity and care.

In pursuit of this there was need for improving content knowledge. That was done. There was need for diversifying and enlivening delivery. This challenge was met. There was need to engage and improve students in various areas. This quite excitedly drove my work.

There were many colleagues whose focus was quite the same understanding that there could be no one size fit all approach. Teaching styles and disciplinary actions had to vary and be acutely aligned to be most effective for the different individual students.

Unfortunately, I have also worked with colleagues who simply saw themselves as having the knowledge that the children needed. These students had to sit down, keep quiet and do as they were told. Any failure was seen as a result of refusal to obey all conditions. Wrong!

As teachers and members of teachers’ organisations, we fight hard to ensure that evaluation was formative with limited or no summative focus. In theory, this allows for improvement; in practice, it simply shields the weak and unprofessional. It makes dismissal almost impossible.

When it comes to children the same does not apply. This has left me boiling. I have been condemned and criticised because of my expressed position that a student cannot get zero on a term report. This reflects on the teacher who has not responded to the needs of the student.

The recent industrial unrest in education is a manifestation of this lack of care and grandstanding. There is no focus on the main reason that they got into teaching. They are led by personal (or political) agendas that have nothing to do with improving student chances.

The latest demand that a minister of Government must come to an inquisition or they will strike on the last teaching day before Common Entrance is absurd! Again, students are to be held to ransom. For the minister to accede is to disrespect his office.

There are issues that the unions may feel aggrieved about. If they are not being properly addressed, the law courts should be approached. We are a democratic country driven by laws and not by the distasteful and bullying tactics of the current teacher unions.

In fairness, the educational leaders have brought this on themselves. They allowed persons to withdraw their labour with impunity at Alexandra. They asked for names to be submitted on a daily basis and then did absolutely nothing. Now people feel empowered and emboldened.

The recent withdrawals also brought a bad response. They played right into the hands of the unions and can now take action against no one. Schools were closed and all persons had a right to go wherever they wanted, to the hairdresser, the beach or to a union meeting!

When I see teachers with a focus that’s in conflict with what’s best for children I invoke the adjusted words of Joan Armatrading. “Why did you Come Here?” This profession is not for you!

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email:


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