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:
- Staunch defense of the Collective Agreement, particularly Article 16;
- 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;
- Championing the cause of Otto Sam in and out of court challenging his illegal transfer and subsequent dismissal from the service;
- Forcing the government to agree to a salary increase after several years of a unilaterally imposed “wage freeze”;
- Demonstrating the fortitude to lead the union in industrial action despite the many obstacles.
- 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
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.
- How effective was Jane as assistant general secretary over the past biennium?
- Does she possess the skills set required for the crucial role of GS?
- Why has she failed to produce the minutes for so many meetings of the union?
- Why did she absent herself from so many meetings of the union?
- 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
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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.
Here is the link to a story recently carried by the Jamaica Gleaner. Read it! Could this be about SVG too? Is it not time that we start such a discussion? I am ready. Are you?
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.