28 Nov 2012

More Than Teaching

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“I will slap you,” one of my male students yelled at his female classmate while I stood at the head of the classroom trying to establish general calm. I was first taken aback and then I realized this was another one of those teaching moments. One of the things I have realized about being a teacher is that it is more than just teaching. This is not just a public school thing.

When I was in secondary school, I struggled a bit with the emotional turmoil that came with being a teenager in an all-girls school. The only person that seems to be able to see me and hear me was my literature teacher. I remember sitting and talking to him, all through my secondary school days. He was never judgemental. Ten years later, I still call him when I have pressing concerns I need to talk about.

Due to my own experience with my teacher, I have never discounted the ability of a teacher to have an impact beyond the educational performance of the students. At the school I am teaching at, teachers are often the most stable contacts in the students’ lives. When students misbehave and they are required to bring their parent, this is when our roles are really highlighted. There are countless stories of students living with grandparents or just their siblings. Or they may be living with one parent that is separated from the other. Fathers especially have been known to admit that they don’t see or speak to their children often.

The permanent staff knows how unstable the lives of these children are so they try to close any gap in parenting. They keep an eye on the girls and if they suspect a girl is pregnant, they have their ways of confirming it. They then contact the parents/guardians who can deal with the pregnancy. Often times, if they don’t trust a parent, they have their ways of ensuring that the girls get proper care. They are also there to talk about hygiene to students that may be falling behind on personal care. Often times, they are also a parenting resource. There have been incidents when guardians have approached teachers and admitted they are unable to cope with their charges. The teachers in such cases often call the student and the guardian together and have a counselling session. After the counselling session, they will pay special attention to the student to ensure that discipline and other issues are properly monitored and enforced.

Sometimes when the teachers are discussing students’ family life, I wonder if they are not crossing in a line. But when I think about it again, I might think that there is really no line. It is all muddled. After my male student made a threat against the female student, I felt the need to suspend the literature class to have a discussion on domestic violence. Teaching time is precious, especially because they are behind on the curriculum. But I figured that I am also responsible for molding their character. And in many ways, character building is the most important task I have as a teacher.

by Sinmi
2012 9JEducation.org work-study

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