Category Archives: For My Colleagues

A student loan default crisis in SVG?

student loan

The National Student Loan Programme has published a list of names and addresses of persons who have apparently defaulted on student loans over the years. In a press release carried in the Searchlight on Friday July 28, 2017, a number of persons were asked to contact the Ministry of Education by August 31, 2017.  While the release did not specifically identify these persons as defaulters, it is generally assumed that they are being summoned to make good on their commitments to the programme.

There were 112 persons named on the published list. It comprised 76 males and 36 females. The listed addresses indicated a spread throughout the entire country. The graphic below shows the distribution according to constituencies. One person’s address was listed as Canada.

Untitled

Distribution of Student Loan Defaulters According to Constituency

The publication of this list has generated quite a lot of discussion on social media. Some person  are totally against the move to, as they put it,  “name and shame” our young people. Then, there are those who think that it was neecessary to bring attention to what is emerging as an important isssue.

It would be interesting to find out why so many persons have chosen to default on loans granted to them to pursue studies. Is it a question of inability to pay back? Or, is it a question of unwillingness to pay. Whatever the situation, it must be negatively impacting on the sustainability of the National Student Loan Programme.

Most, if not all,  of the persons named on the list are gainfully employed right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Others have apparently migrated in search of better opportunities. Whatever the case, they clearly do not consider repayment of their student loan to be high on their list of priorities. It does not matter to them  that refusal to pay puts the progammme in jeopardy and stymies the chances of other young people seeking to finance their college and university education.

As a grateful beneficiary of similar student loans in the past, both as a student and as the parent of a student, I am in full support of any measure taken by the authorities to get persons to honour their debts in this regard,

To those who have criticized the publication of the list, I say, stop complaining! If there is anyone whom you know on the list, call them up and urge them to meet their commitments. It is the patriotic thing to do.

Finally, if any of the defaulters are reading this, do the right thing and pay up!

Advertisements

SVGTU Elections: Robbie or Govie?

 

robbbie and govie

Bro Oswald Robinson and Bro Sheldon Govia

It’s election time for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU). On February 17 and 18, 2016, members of the union will vote for a new executive. I continue to urge all members of the union to vote. But, before you do, you must thoroughly assess the candidates. In this article, I share my views on the two gentlemen vying for the position of president, Bro Oswald Robinson and Bro Sheldon Govia.

I begin with current president, Bro Oswald Robinson. During the biennium, Bro Oswald made an effort to advance the cause of the union. However, he encountered several challenges. Among the most critical of these was the undermining and backbiting from key members of his team. There were times when he could have been more assertive in exercising his leadership. But, Robbie means well and once given the necessary support he will continue to serve the union well.

Among the issues that Robbie championed with zeal include:

  1. Staunch defense of the Collective Agreement, particularly Article 16;
  2. Fighting the government in court on the matter of the three teachers who were forced to resign their jobs despite the government’s agreement to grant election leave;
  3. Championing the cause of Otto Sam in and out of court challenging his illegal transfer and subsequent dismissal from the service;
  4. Forcing the government to agree to a salary increase after several years of a unilaterally imposed “wage freeze”;
  5. Demonstrating the fortitude to lead the union in industrial action despite the many obstacles.
  6. His stellar representation of the SVGTU in regional and international for such as meetings of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) and Education International (EI). He is highly respected in these bodies.

As the voice of teachers in the country, Bro Oswald has been a force to reckon with. Robbie does have his limitations as we all do. In this regard he is always prepared to listen and take advice if it becomes necessary. It is my considered view that Robbie is by far a much better choice than the other gentleman running for president.

Bro Sheldon Govia, the current first vice-president has chosen to run for president against the president with whom he has served. This fact in itself tells a story. I find this to be quite brazen of him given his record of poor performance and the blatant undermining of the National Executive. Govie’s main concern during his tenure was receiving the monthly stipend and travelling overseas.

Bro Sheldon disappointed many when it was determined that he actively worked against the union during the recent impasse with the government. He blatantly chose to go to work when the union called a strike. Further, it became clear that Govie and the others of his ilk were motivated by party politics as they disregarded the struggles of the union. In short, Govia is slow, inarticulate, incompetent, and untrustworthy! With him as president, the SVGTU would become the laughing stock of the country and the rest of the trade union world.

Watch and think carefully about whom you plan to vote for president. You have a choice between a zealous advocate for our union’s cause on one hand. On the other, there is  one who has shown a willingness to sell out in times of crisis. It is either Robbie or Govie. You know where I stand! Put back Robbie!

Philbert “Peejohn” John

SVGTU Elections: Before you vote for Jane…

janefarrell

The office of general secretary (GS) is arguably the most critical on any union’s executive, especially that of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU). This office is the centre of the union’s operations. Indeed, the functioning of the executive is only as effective as the general secretary is effective.

A non-performing GS is tantamount to a non-performing executive. Therefore, as members of the SVGTU go out to on February 17 and 18, 2016, I urge you to think carefully about whom you might chose to fill this position.

Jane Farrell, who “served” as assistant general secretary on the outgoing executive, is now  running for GS. Whatever you do, DO NOT vote for Jane. Even if you are thinking about it, here are some points you may wish to consider.

  1. How effective was Jane as assistant general secretary over the past biennium?
  2. Does she possess the skills set required for the crucial role of GS?
  3. Why has she failed to produce the minutes for so many meetings of the union?
  4. Why did she absent herself from so many meetings of the union?
  5. Why did she actively undermine the National Executive during the recent conflict with the government?

This is a lady whose tenure is office as assistant general secretary has been marked by gross incompetence, negligence and dereliction of duties. This is a lady who refused to show solidarity with the union during a period of crisis. How can she now function as general secretary, the most critical office of the executive?

Colleagues, think about it!

Philbert “Peejohn” John

SVGTU Elections: Go out and vote!

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) will hold elections on February 17 and 18, 2016. These elections come at a crucial time in the development of our union. I urge all members to go out and vote. Exercise your franchise. Make sensible choices regarding whom you think would best serve the interests of the organization and its membership.

An official list of the candidates for each position has been published on social media- Facebook to be exact. This list presents quite an interesting mix of old and new faces. There are some who show bright promise; there are those whose record of past performance suggests that they should be returned. And, of course, there are those whom should be totally rejected and disregarded  for their dismal  performance and painful betrayal during the past biennium!

I urge my colleagues to seek information. Do NOT fall for the attractive posters that are currently making the rounds as the campaign heats up.Thoroughly assess each candidate and choose carefully. Consider a blend of past performance and future promise. Soundly reject those who are merely engaged in the pursuance of personal ambition; vote against the few who have already demonstrated a willingness to put their party loyalty above the union’s agenda. We must severely punish those who have blatantly betray the cause of the union.

The future of the SVGTU is in our hands. Go out and vote. Choose wisely!

Farrell, Jackson, Govia and Jones- You Despicable Four- Resign Now!

According to news reports, four members of the executive body of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union (SVGTU) reported for work on October 13, 2015, the day that the union called its members out for strike action. Not only did they break the strike, it is reported that some of them were behind the scenes lobbying rank and file members to disregard the call of the union. In industrial relations, this is an unpardonable sin. These persons, to whom I refer as the despicable four, should now do the decent thing and resign from their respective posts immediately.

Margaret Jackson, General Secretary

Jane Farrell, Assistant General Secretary

It was with grave sadness that I learnt that Sis Jane Farrell, Sis Margaret Jackson, Bro Sheldon Govia and Bro Maxford Jones boldly ignored the union’s call to withdraw their services. Instead, they showed up for work. Even more disconcerting was the charge that they were allegedly involved in lobbying other members to do likewise. And, to make matters even worse, it is claimed that among them is a direct line to the prime minister who is briefed on every move contemplated by the executive. Like I said, it is alleged!

Maxford Jones, Committee Member

Sheldon Govia, First Vice President

In October of 1999, the Teachers Union called a strike. And, I Philbert John, a.k.a Peejohn as PRO of the SVGTU then, chose to show up to work instead. I was unceremoniously ejected from the executive within hours! I then had the gall to show up to a subsequent  general meeting where I was almost pilloried by a mob of angry members. Since that time, I have worked hard to restore some semblance of acceptability and credibility with the membership. To this day, I am still paying for that unpardonable sin.

In October of 2008, the union went on a ten day strike over unresolved issues connected to the recently concluded reclassification exercise. During that period, the then president Sis Joy Matthews was deemed to be less than enthusiastic about striking. At a hastily summoned emergency general meeting, the membership demanded her resignation with immediate effect. After all, they were dissatisfied with her lacklustre  leadership during a period of crisis.

As a long standing member of the SVGTU; and as one who has borne the brunt of ejection and ostracism for my stupid act in 1999, I call on the despicable four to leave the executive immediately. I also urge all members to demand that they be removed forthwith!

These are four erstwhile decent people who may have perhaps let the promise of position and partisan patronage severely damage their integrity. The union can in NO way function with their kind in the leadership.

I say, resign NOW!

Philbert “Peejohn” John

5 More Ways In Which We, as Teachers, Fail Our Students

Introduction

In a previous article, and much to the annoyance of several colleagues, I shared with readers 5 ways in which I think we fail our students. I listed absenteeism; tardiness; malingering; lethargic engagement; and lack of effective planning and preparation among the behaviours that thwart the academic success of our students. In this article, as promised, I share 5 more ways in which we fail our students.

1.  Deficiencies in Subject Matter Knowledge

Some teachers do demonstrate significant gaps in their knowledge base. This is perhaps true for only a small minority. However, the idea that teachers do not know much about the subjects they teach should be quite disconcerting. The dearth of knowledge may be as a result of poor pre-service preparation and failure to keep abreast with new developments in the discipline. Out-of-field teaching, i.e., the practice of deploying teachers to teach subject areas in which they have little or no expertise, is also quite common. Further, given the dynamic nature of knowledge, it is reasonable to expect gaps to emerge from time to time. However, it becomes problematic when teachers do little or nothing to correct these deficiencies.

2.  Failure to Learn from Best Practices and Exemplary Models of Teaching

Good teachers, it is often said, begin with emulating their own teachers. This suggests that one could learn from the environment in which they are expected to grow professionally. Growth also comes from reflecting on one’s own practice with a view to seeking ways to constantly improve. Another path to improvement is marked by researching best practices and exemplary models that one could adapt to one’s own context. However, many of our teachers ignore such practices. As a result, their performance in the classroom is often devoid of any effective pedagogy.

3.  Absence of Creativity and Resourcefulness

Teachers do encounter challenges in our quest to promote student success. These challenges do call on us to demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness. Sometime we have to step out of the confines of the classroom, the curriculum and even the rules, for the benefit of our students. This may be seen as going beyond the “wall of duty”. Every so often, in teaching and learning, situations arise that test our capacity to be creative and resourceful. A positive response to such circumstances, more often than not, redounds to the good of our students. Unfortunately, many of us are not prepared to be stretched and we allow precious potential teaching moments to slip by.

4.  Demonstrating Lack of Empathy and Compassion

I have heard students referred to some of us as “cold”. This is more than a slang used to describe a hard task master and strict disciplinarian. The term is also used to define teachers who show little or no empathy and compassion for the students under their care. Being an effective teacher involves much more than teaching students to excel in their studies. It also involves making a positive impact on their very souls. This requires a certain level of sensitivity to their socio-emotional needs. It also calls for a demonstrable acknowledgment of their essence as human beings. In short, empathy and compassion for our students are vitally necessary for students’ growth and development throughout life. It appears as if some teachers do not even begin to understand and accept this point.

5.  Staying on the Job despite Hatred for the Job

Some teachers hate teaching! However, they are stuck with the job since it’s a steady source of income no matter how small the salary. Should something better come along, such teachers would make a hasty exit. Teaching calls for passion, drive, discipline and commitment. Many of our teachers lack these qualities. This is evident in many of the behaviours highlighted in these articles. There are many recalcitrant teachers in the service only “marking time”. Meanwhile, their students suffer. Ronnie Thwaites, the Minister of Education in Jamaica, recently issued an impassioned plea for such teachers in that country to, “Go!” In St. Vincent a similar call from the authorities is necessary. Teachers who hate the job, for whatever reasons, should do themselves and their students a favour and just quit.

Conclusion

While the academic success of our students is dependent on a wide array of connected factors, I strongly contend that teachers and our behaviours are the most critical. Teachers are expected to teach! This involves doing everything within one’s capabilities to ensure that all of our students are successful.

Whenever students fail to learn, it means that teachers failed to teach. This statement may be platitudinous but it is nonetheless true. Currently, there are too many failing students in our schools. As teachers, we cannot and must not absolve ourselves of the blame for this situation.

First published in the Week End Searchlight of March 20, 2015

5 ways in which, we as teachers, fail our students

failing_student

Introduction

I strongly hold the view that teachers are solely responsible for the academic success of the students in their charge. This is a position I have adopted during more than three decades as a classroom practitioner with a penchant for research and reflection. During this time, I have observed and interacted with the good, the bad and the indifferent colleague in our classrooms. While the vast majority of us make a great effort to ensure the academic success of our students, there are those in the “stubborn minority” who do the exact opposite. These teachers fail our students. In this brief article, I wish to share five ways in which they do so.

1.  Absenteeism

Absenteeism among teachers is rife throughout the system. It is not unusual to have as much as 10-20% of a given staff out for the day, the entire day, every day. I challenge any school in this country that could boast of 100% teacher attendance on a consistent basis. If there is any, it is extremely rare.

Teachers fail to “show up” for a variety of reasons. These may include illness, personal business, workshops, and meetings, all of which are “legitimate”. There are also those who simply fail to show. Consider what this means for a school and classroom when even the smallest number of teachers are absent on a regular basis.

2.  Tardiness

Compounding the issue of absenteeism is that of tardiness. Several teachers arrive to school late. In some schools, there are teachers who “stroll” in long after the first bell, prayers, assembly and roll-call. They are hardly ever present to participate in the traditional routines that signal the commencement of each school day.

At some institutions, chaos ensues and persists at the beginning of each day as some principals struggle to establish order in the wake of absent and tardy teachers. Indeed, I do believe that some students see no need to   be there on time since “Miss” or “Sir will not be there!

3.  Malingering

This, for me, is perhaps the most annoying practice of all, malingering. Teachers are present but they “choose” not to attend to their classes in a timely manner. Instead of reporting to class, these teachers sit around and gossip in the staffroom; they huddle in small groups in the office; they stand around on the corridor or some other place; they pause on their way to class and take time to make or take a phone call, invariably on their Smartphones. Some even find the slightest of reasons to return to the staffroom and just linger until the bell rings to signal a change of session. One can only imagine the enormous amount instructional time that goes to waste as a result the annoying practice of malingering.

4.  Lethargic engagement

This is another way of saying that some teachers are lackadaisical. They go into the classroom and do little or nothing to effectively engage their students. They may scrawl something on the chalkboard then sit as their charges “take charge”. Some of them turn their backs to the class and attempt to fill the board with “notes”. They may even sit at the teacher’s desk as one half of the class crowd around them while the rest are left up to their own devices. Indeed, casual observation often reveals a teacher who refuses to or is unable to connect with the students under her care. It appears to be the result of lethargy. Hence, I refer to such behaviour as “lethargic engagement”.

5. Lack of effective planning and preparation

The best lessons are the result of extensive planning and preparation. Unfortunately, this point has been lost on many of our teachers. Unprepared lessons end abruptly or go long over the stipulated time. The objectives, if any, are never ever achieved. The classes tend to lack focus and both teacher and students show little or no enthusiasm during the session. Although it is a requirement that teachers write lesson plans, quite a number of them fail to do so.  Instead they appear to be guided by “old notes” in their possession. Or, they move from chapter to chapter in a slavish commitment to a prescribed text. In the end, very little is accomplished and our students suffer the harmful consequences

Conclusion

The essential role of the teacher in students’ academic success cannot be over emphasized. Unfortunately, there exist a significant number of colleagues throughout the system who engage in behaviours and practices that negate our mission as educators. I have touched on a few. In a subsequent article I propose to examine five other sets of behaviours among colleagues that are responsible for the failure of so many students to achieve academic success.

First published in the Mid Week Searchlight of March 17, 2015

Sex and the Single Teacher

sexandteacher

God created sex. Yes, He did! At first, it was intended solely  for the purpose of procreation. However, ever since Adam and Eve  found out that sex could be had purely for pleasure as well, it has never been the same since then. Now, everyone perhaps save and except for the Thusians, engages in sex mainly for the indescribable ecstasy it brings. Procreation of the race is not even given the slightest consideration.

I recently discovered (to my amazement) that no other group loves sex more than teachers. Both males and females alike, as it turns out, have an insatiable appetite for coitus activities. This urge, if I may call it that, is most intense among unmarried educators, particularly those under the age of forty.

The thing is, sex is so damn sweet we are tempted to do whenever, wherever and with whomever. Fortunately though, this God-given desire; this most precious act is accompanied by a set of rules that are found in the Word of God. Essentially, sex must be between a male and female within the confines of a marriage ordained by God himself. Anything else is deemed sinful and wicked.

Take a look at some verses from the Holy Bible that offer sound instruction about sex.

Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Romans 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:13 Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is without the body; but he that commits fornication sins against his own body.
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Ephesians 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints;
Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Nothing is wrong with loving sex. But, according to scriptures, it is wrong to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone unless you are married. So, this is a solemn plea for single teachers to abstain from sex. If you would like the privilege of enjoying this profound pleasure, get married!

What is there to march about?

teachersmarch2014

Teachers’ Solidarity March November 14, 2014

On Friday November 14, 2014 the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union staged its annual solidarity march and rally. From all reports, the gathering of teachers appeared to be bigger than it was in a few years. In fact, several of the teachers who showed up were doing so for the very first time.

Some persons have openly expressed surprise at the growing number of teachers who chose to actively participate in the events this year. Then, there was the big question: Why are teachers still marching? Some have asserted that the teachers of this country never had it so good. That may be so. But, does it also mean that conditions can not or must not be improved?

Teachers being arrested in 1975

Teachers being arrested in 1975

Traditionally, teachers have worked under generally difficult conditions. Low salaries; meagre benefits; and deplorable working environments have generally marked the lot of teachers in this country. To be sure, there have been improvements over the years. However, the gains made did not come without struggle. Indeed, the protracted teachers’ strike of 1975 that led to the brutal reprisals from the authorities in the form of the arrests, trials, and dismissals of a number of teachers is still commemorated as a significant point in this never ending struggle.

After nearly forty years, there are still issues to be resolved. Even if we agree that “teachers never had it so good”, we must also accept that there is nothing for which we must continue to struggle?

Consider the following:

  1. the current unilaterally imposed salary freeze
  2. the failure to engage the SVGTU in discussion and consultation on issues touching on terms and conditions of service
  3. the violation of the collective agreement with regard to the Article 16, Election Leave
  4. the failure to honour the said article leading to the forced resignation of three teachers who ran for office;
  5. the plight of brother Otto Sam and what his situation may mean for other teachers who may wish to add their voices to contentious national issues;
  6. the failure to appoint and promote some teachers in accordance with the rules of the civil service and traditional practices; and
  7. the general malaise afflicting trade unions stemming from efforts to smother them.

The teachers of this country must continue to march. As conditions continue to improve we should march in celebration. To the extent that policies and practices persist that adversely affect the teaching profession we should march in protest!

Long live the SVGTU!

 

 

When you disagree with the principal…!

Every teacher may at one time or the other come into contact with a disagreeable principal. Here are a few suggestions from Max Fischer about how to handle the inevitable disagreement with an administrator

 Be straightforward. Backstabbing is never a worthwhile or appropriate tactic. The most constructive means of dealing with any disagreement is to do it directly. When a principal’s determination becomes a point of friction, anything less than a candid discussion will only intensify the heat.
Go Private, not public. For sure, if a principal actively solicits input to a school-wide decision during a staff meeting, that forum is a legitimate venue for a civil rebuttal to his planned course of action. However, any sensitive issue — personnel related or otherwise — should be handled in a private meeting. A staff meeting is no place for a blindsided assault on an administrator.
Be assertive rather than aloof or pushy. By all means, when a live issue is on the table, don’t be a wallflower. If something is bothering you, pretending it will go away or that it doesn’t really matter won’t accomplish anything. Thoughts unspoken are likely to fester and lead to additional frustrations. On the other hand, a combative approach can be just as counterproductive. The body language of aggression — arms crossed, a scowl, a raised voice — will force the principal to be defensive instead of being open to an alternative perspective. The best approach, almost always, is to state the case simply, clearly, and without excess emotion.

Cite bona fide research or school-wide data. Professional journal articles can be an excellent source of support for your point of view; they can lend credence to a specific instructional strategy you want to employ if your principal is unfamiliar with that approach. Data — especially data collected at the school level — can help you make a strong case too. The more your position is grounded in observable realities and concrete information, the less likely it will be viewed as vintage emotional “whine.”

Remember who is captain. If push comes to shove, remember that your principal is the team captain. The best administrators seek consensus wherever possible. But, in those cases where consensus doesn’t, or can’t, exist, the principal must make his best judgment call. Don’t begrudge him. Don’t fight a losing battle. Move on.

What makes one a good teacher?

There is no agreement on what makes a person a good teacher. However, it is widely perceived that good teachers are a rare species indeed. Students, parents, and the wider community tend to lament on what they see as the absence of good teachers, and good role models in the nations’ classroom today.
Recently, I came across an article online in which the writer identifies certain observable characteristics of a good teacher. I would like to share them with you.

A good teacher
• possesses good knowledge of subject area
• constantly engages in learning
• has an abundance of energy
• collaborates with other teachers
• possesses knowledge of child development
• respects children and parents while still authoritative
• possesses a sense of humour
• wants to teach; sees teaching as a lifestyle, not a job
• cares about children even after they have left school
• shows passion for teaching
• makes effort to differentiate the curriculum to challenge every student
• seeks outside resources and integrates them into the curriculum
• sets high standards for self and students
• ensures that students are engaged
• gets students excited about learning
• causes eyes to light up when teaching (kindles this passion even when tired or burned out)
• is regularly named by students as one of their best teacher.
After several years as a teacher I often wonder if I do measure up. It is not easy being a good teacher. However, we must keep on trying. Perhaps, someday a stranger would walk up to you and say, “Hi, I remember you! You were one of my best teachers!.” I look forward to that day.

Are you tired of teaching?

Over the past month I have spoken to three colleagues who have all expressed frustration with teaching today! Indeed, only one of them is willing to stick it out for a while. The other two will be gone by the end of this school year! They are all excellent teachers who still have a contribution to make to the development of our young people. At times, I too get frustrated…then I get to see scenes as portrayed in this video …
For the sake of the next generation of police, nurses, chefs, teachers, pilots etc…

Are teachers abusing school phones?

Several schools across the state have been affacted by the programme of disconnection for unpaid bills recently carried out by LIME. We have since learnt that the unpaid bills had nothing to do with the government’s lack of resources or inability to pay. Instead, it is a question of poor mangement and abuse.

The abuse of the phone service in government departments and agencies including school is rampant! That is the conventional view. In the case of schools we must accept the fact that phone bills are high due partly or wholly to abuse by teachers. Should we sit back and accept this view?

Pause for a moment and consider the following points:

  1. Since about 2005 every single teacher is in possession of one or two or even three mobile phones.
  2. The preferred mobile phone or similar device for your average teacher is a smartphone (BlackBerry, iPhone etc).
  3. The preferred modes of communication is texting or “bbming”, or chatting on MSN and Yahoo Messenger.  Note: The phone is hardly ever used for “talking”.
  4. It is easier and safer to gossip with a colleague, friends and family using a mobile handset instead of using the school phone which is invariably an old time fixed line handset situated in a public place.
  5. Most, if not all fixed lines in schools are on a the “flat fee” plan and are generally barred from making calls to mobile phones and overseas numbers.

In this context, it is difficult to figure out why and how a teacher would abuse a school phone. The old land line is simply no longer the preferred means of communicating. This is the 21st century; it is the age of FB and Twitter! Why would any teacher go into the office or staff room and spend hours on the school phone?

Call me daft! But, it just does not make any sense to me!

Cheating on SBAs? CXC gets tough!

Cheating on SBAs has been one of my pet peeves over the years. In their haste to submit their projects, students have tried every trick in the book to gain an advantage. There is no point in detailing their cheating strategies here. Suffice it to say, at one point,  I once considered challenging the validity of the SBA component  of CXC exams.

I am sure that CXC has been aware of the problem over the years. They have now decided to get tough with the culprits. Apparently, with the growth of ICT, cheating has become even more widespread and more complicated.

The following was recently reported on the CXC website as concerns emerging from a meeting of officers of the Council.

Problems in SBAs

An issue of major concern which was brought to the fore was plagiarism as it related to School-Based Assessment projects, also called SBAs. In a move to clamp down on dishonesty both on the part of teachers and students Giles said CXC would be toughening its stance and ensuring work was screened in a more meticulous manner. One school, in which the country was not identified, submitted an SBA where it was later discovered that the teacher “repackaged” the project. That teacher, she said, was recommended by CXC to be suspended and all the students in that particular class were not awarded any marks.

Another problem relating to SBAs was that in some cases the projects were not being submitted by students. The result of which led to the student not being graded for the subject. According to The Caribbean Examiner, a publication of CXC, for October 2011 it cited that reported cases of fraud in the 2011 examinations included:

• Collusion in the examination room;

• collusion on SBAs;

• impersonation;

• forged signature;

• taking notes into the examination room and;

• submission of identical practical reports;

• Submission of fabricated SBA marks;

• Submission of SBA projects previously submitted by past students.

It is interesting to note that CXC has found some teachers to be culpable. However, I choose not to comment on that at this time. I would only say that teachers should know that they DO NOT help our young people when the collude with them to cheat on SBAs.

Marking those “Notebooks”!

My young colleague diligently checking her students' "notebooks"

 I was struck by this scene and I had to document it. Here is a young colleague of mine diligently checking her students’ netbooks, or should I say “notebooks”. It is indeed a lovely sight to behold!

Since the distribution of these netbooks to first formers across the country, the manner in which they have been put to use varies from school to school and from teacher  to teacher. There are some who have not made any meaningful effort to incorporate the device into their lessons; there are those who have used there own resourcefulness, ingenuity, and instinct to put the netbooks to use and thereby enhance the teaching and learning process. In the mean time several colleagues have undergone some taining inthe use of ICTs in the classroom. 

At the Barrouallie Secondary School, ICT Integration in teaching and learning  is the top priority for the administration and staff. Quite a number of of activities have taken place to assist teachers in making use not just of the the netbooks, but every other available tool for ICT integration. For the most part, our teachers are enthusiastic about the possibilities presented by the various ICT tools for eenhancing teaching and learning.

Several of my young colleagues do not have any formal training in pedagogy, but it is quite impressive to see how thay have used natural curiosity and creativity, through collaboration  to develop and present lessons aided by technology.

You may wonder what my young colleague could be doing with all those “notebooks” before her. I counted 18. It could be more. Perhaps she is marking them; perhaps she is checking them; who knows! One thing is for certain, both my colleague and her students are enthusiastic about the endless possibilities for enjoyable teaching and learning that these and similar devices present!

Teachers jeer Burns Bonadie!

Burns Bonadie

This year’s Teachers’ Solidarity March and Rally was not without controversy; neither was it without drama.

When Burns Bonadie mounted the platform, presumably to bring a solidarity message behalf of his union, the crowd erupted in jeers, hisses and boos.  A clearly agitated Bonadie still attempted to speak but he could not be heard among the raucous roars of the crowd.

This behaviour went on for a few minutes as the veteran trade unionist attempted to address scores of belligerent teachers and their well wishers in attendance. Then, Ronald Clarke, the acting president of the SVGTU, intervened. He appealed to the angry teachers to allow Bonadie to speak. Clarke’s intervention did little to help the situation. Teachers were in no moood to listen to Burns Bonadie. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Amidst the jeers from the crowd, Bonadie gave his message. He expressed solidarity with the Teachers’ Union and reminded the gathering of his own contribution  to the struggle of teachers over the years.  Bonadie also took the opportunity to outline his credentials as an advocate for workers’ rights across the region.  As he concluded his brief address, the jeers and boos went up again.

Burns Bonadie is widely recognized as an outstanding labour leader in the region. He served for many years as the general secretary of the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL).  Bonadie is now the principal adviser to the government on labour issues and heads the recently created Workers Institute of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Some observers expressed the view that the treament meted out to the veteran trade unionist was unnecessary and embarrassing, especially for one who has done so much for the labour movement in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and across the Caribbean.

Dumb at home but outspoken abroad? SVGTU at EI 6th World Congress

Ronald Clake, SVGTU's 1st Vice President and Acting President. The Union's delegate to EI 6th World Congress in Cape Town South Africa

Today is May 13, 2011 and in 69 days EI 6th World Congress will begin. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU) will be represented by Ronald Clarke the Union’s first vice-president and acting president. Is SVGTU in a position to represent the teachers of this country at that international forum? Does Clarke have the moral authority to speak on our behalf in such a gathering?

EI –Education International– is the global union federation of organizations that represents over 30 million teachers and other education workers, through 402 member organizations in 173 countries and territories. The World Congress, held every four years, is the supreme governing body of Education International. The next Congress will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, in the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) from July 22nd to July 26th, 2011.

The Congress provides an opportunity for representatives of all EI affiliates to meet and strengthen the bonds of solidarity between teachers and education workers throughout the world. Delegates consider the major contemporary issues affecting their organizations, the international teacher trade union movement, and the ongoing struggle to achieve quality public education for all.

At the World Congress, EI members will address “major contemporary issues” affecting teachers across the globe. Among the issues on EI’s agenda are:

  • education for all;
  • the working and living conditions of teachers;
  • school leadership;
  • status of teachers;
  • trade union education;
  • human and trade union rights;
  • children rights gender equality;
  • sexual diversity;
  • health and safety at schools;
  • HIV/AIDS prevention;
  • the global economic crisis and its impact on teachers 
  • national violent conflicts and their impact on teachers.

Indeed, EI is on a mission to forge solidarity among the world’s teachers in the quest for quality education.

Where does St. Vincent and the Grenadines stand relative to all these critical issues on EI’s agenda? How has the SVGTU executed its mandate to address these concerns on the national front?  Exactly what will Clarke take to the world congress on our behalf? What does he intend to bring back?

There are those who who assert that SVGTU is now a broken union. Since the last biennial convention over a year ago there has not been a single legitimate gathering of the principal organs of the  SVGTU, i.e. the General Membership and the General Council. This is a clear violation of the  constitution. The National Executive is apparently left to do its own  thing. The situation is such that the very legitimacy of the union’s operations may be questioned. What is the acting president going to tell EI in South Africa about this situation?

Given the perception that the leadership of the organization has been unable or refused to stand up and speakout on certain national issues, can we now expect acting president Ronald Clarke to do so in South Africa? What is he going to report on  issues such as:

  • violation of the collective agreement;
  • the status of the reclassification exercise;
  • failure to revise the present agreement;
  • government’s unilateral “wage freeze”;
  • the impact of the twin evils of political tribalism and political victimization on the teaching profession;
  • the plummeting morale of teachers across the state;
  • the declining membership of the SVGTU?
  • the lethargic functioning of the only body that represents the interest of teachers ?

Some members of the union may find it hard to accept the view that the acting president may well be going to South Africa on a joy ride.  How can the “leader” of an inactive, silent and broken union purport to speak in an international forum on behalf of a demoralized membership? How can one who appears dumb at home go out on the international stage and “speak” on the critical issues that confront the teachers of this country? Is it too late to stop this outrage?

%d bloggers like this: