“We need to reintroduce streaming” – a teacher in a Church secondary school
The teacher’s job has become more and more difficult and complex. Teachers today not only fulfil the requirements of their profession, which at the end of the day is a vocation and which they carry out with care and dedication, but go beyond. In the circumstances and the social problems we have today, the teacher also acts as a counsellor or social worker.
Voice of the Workers spoke with a teacher employed in a Church secondary school. She spoke about the challenges that the teachers face every day. She said that the teachers’ responsibilities are no longer limited to passing on knowledge on the subject they are teaching. Today, teachers need to adapt their material for use by students of different abilities. They are expected to make the lessons interesting and are under constant pressure to use different methods to make the lessons more engaging.
“Up to this point I feel that it is the teacher’s duty to be of service to the student. The challenge kicks in when the teacher is expected to cope with everything”, said the teacher who spoke to us.
She explained that the abolition of the process of streaming has made it very difficult for a teacher to give the required attention to each student in class. More than this, according to this teacher, technology is also being used against teachers. “We are lessening the students’ responsibilities and putting more work on the teachers’ shoulders”, said the teacher. When homework is given, writing it on the board is not sufficient. She added that, “we are freeing the students from having to have a diary by putting the work up on a platform such as Klikks so that the parents can keep themselves informed on what work is being given … however only a few students and parents follow what is happening.”
“I have been called a ‘paedophile’ in jest and a student has told me that he will rape me”
She added that another example of work being doubly done is the attendance which is done using Klikks and also on the register which teachers are expected to fill in.
The teacher referred to the students’ attitude in general. “We rarely come across a student who moves aside to let us pass through a door or in the corridor.” Basic etiquette no longer exists. “Swearing, bad language and the arrogance of some students have almost become acceptable so often do we hear them. Since I have been at this Church school I have been called a ‘paedophile’ in jest and a student has told me that he will rape me. Thankfully, the support of the management of the school has never flagged”, said this teacher.
Asked to comment about the security of the school where she works she said that, to date, she feels quite secure in the environment in which she works. Until today, she has never known herself or her colleagues to be at any risk and she added that outsiders need to ask permission to enter the school as the school gates are closed during school hours.
Voice of the Workers asked about the system of assessments instead of mid-term exams. She said that, unless there is a national reform at all levels of education, from primary to tertiary education, she does not think that mid-term exams should be scrapped. In her opinion, it does not makes sense to lessen the stress for students at secondary level only for them to be faced with a certain level of stress due to the exams at the post-secondary or university level. If this is to be the case she would prefer the students to be prepared bit by bit.
On the national policy on homework, the teacher explained that she does not like to give a great deal of homework to students but she likes to set goals during the lesson that she would like to meet. If the students do not manage to do all the work in time, they can continue the work at home. “With students who are older, that is from Grade 9 to 11, I like to ask them to tell me the amount of homework they think I should set. This way we would be reaching a compromise”.
She is of the opinion that the timings that have been stipulated in the national policy on homework are very reasonable. She said that teachers who give out a great deal of homework most probably do so to prepare their students for exams. This is where the discussion turns back to whether exams are doing more harm than good to students.
She believes that students complain about homework because the work itself is tedious. “The curriculum we currently have does not leave us leeway to be flexible about the type of work we do with the students. On the other hand, it would be futile to increase the flexibility of the curriculum and then retain the rigid exams of the SEC.”
“The curriculum we currently have does not leave us leeway to be more flexible.”
Asked to comment about whether she thinks that school hours should be extended, the teacher who spoke to us said that if the students are complaining about the amount of homework they are being given, imagine what they would say about extended school hours.
“As a teacher, I do not think that lengthening the lesson periods would necessarily be of benefit to the students. I think that rather than increasing the quantity of teaching, we should focus on increasing the quality. In today’s world, classes that number more than 20 students are too big given the social problems we are seeing. In consequence, we are experiencing lack of discipline and increasingly bad attitudes.”
She said that smaller classes would enable more attention to be given to each student and, thus, the quality of teaching would increase. “We should bring back streaming so that teaching can become more specific”, the teacher concluded.