It was with sadness and disappointment that I read a letter in one of the newspapers urging that teachers be given "zero increase" since, according to the writer, most teachers are delinquent.
The writer falsely deduced that those who refused to heed the call to "rest and reflect" were truly dedicated and thus showed their commitment and suggested that they alone be given increases.
Clearly many people are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes. Teachers are called upon to do many unrelated, yet necessary, duties if the safety and general well-being of their charges is to be taken seriously. The teacher is also care-giver, social worker, counsellor, psychologist, surrogate parent, peace-maker, police officer, disciplinarian and anything else that is needed on any given day to deal with a particular contingency.
Teachers and school office staff perform the duties of doctors and nurses in the absence of any medical personnel and limited emergency facilities at our schools. Teachers often have to lift sick pupils and take them in their vehicles to the hospital. There are no wheelchairs or stretchers available in schools for such situations. There is no sick bay.
How many people are aware that teachers provide financial assistance to students in need of uniforms, transport, stationery supplies and even texts that are not provided by the Government? Teachers have been known to stock up on sanitary napkins for pupils. Some teachers even stock up on underwear for those occasions when bowel upsets wreak havoc with pupils' dignity.
How many people hear the complaints of the spouses of teachers who are unable to get the undivided attention of their companions who are busy researching information, making charts, preparing lesson plans and other teaching aids, writing up report books, typing up worksheets, setting test papers, correcting assignments and test papers and myriad other duties that cannot be done in school? Much has to be done at home so as to prepare to deliver the curriculum in the classroom.
How many are present when pupils with psychological or emotional issues have to be counselled in the absence of a guidance officer? How many are there to assist teachers who are physically and verbally threatened by pupils on drugs or in gangs, some on criminal charges and before the courts, when they take umbrage at being disciplined?
How many have tried to deal with a class of pupils, all with different personalities, varying challenges, different learning styles and needs, some whose disruptive behaviour and lack of self- discipline test your managerial and organisational skills, patience, self-control, ability to stay focused, not to mention stretch your audio-visual senses to the very limit every day?
The class clown, the bully, the attention-seeker, those with attention-deficit issues, the introvert, the low-in-self-esteem, the arrogant, the know-it-all, the violent, the argumentative, the unmotivated, couldn't-care-less about your subject and school, the dyslexic, the slow learner, the fast learner, the complainer ("Miss/Sir talk to..."), the abused and some "normal", well-behaved ones who are eager to learn thrown in between, just to name a few, all comprise mixed-ability classes on any given day. How many parents throw their hands up in frustration when fed-up with the few children in their charge and willfully send them off to grandma's so they can get a break? How many parents breathe a sigh of relief when holidays are over, clearly overly anxious to pass them over to the teacher, whose turn it is to deal with their difficult-to-manage "darlings"?
Those who think teachers have it easy must reflect on what would happen if those so-called "uncaring" teachers stopped performing those duties and responsibilities they have undertaken out of compassion and simply because they are being guided by their conscience.