TL:DR – Thank you, teachers.
We had written about what we think MOE should stop doing if they wanted to increase the retention of teachers. That was last week and in response to a Straits Times report about how some 5,000 teachers have left the service in five years. A former teacher’s blogpost also went semi-viral.
We think all the discussion and sharing of thoughts and ideas are good. One of the first things to do when solving a problem is to first acknowledge that there IS a problem. Then we hear the needs of the stakeholders and see how to come to some solution. Right?
But, what if you get parents, yes, one of the stakeholders, who say things that sorta blow our minds? Yes, we’re referring to a forum letter that was published in Straits Times. The letter reminded us that it’s not just what MOE does or not do that would drive teachers away. It’s also being taken for granted by the public.
Yes, we’re talking about this letter. Even the Chinese media picked it up.
So, what did that letter say?
It asserts that parents pick schools with the “best service” to maximise their children’s potential. It then claimed that working after school hours is part of the service that teachers have to provide. Best of all, it went on to say:
“Most parents have full-time jobs and are not able to attend meet-the-parents sessions or student performances during normal school hours. Therefore, it is not realistic to have such sessions during weekday school hours.”
Ok. So none of the teachers are parents? None of the teachers have families that they need to go home to spend time with?
But you know what? The problem isn’t that teachers have to work after school hours. Most teachers who join the teaching service join knowing that they will have to work after school hours. We know of many teachers who WILLINGLY put in insane hours above and beyond what MOE requires of them. Hours that go into remedial classes, small group consultations, co-curriculum activities, meeting parents, counselling students, advising students on their next step in their education, and any other school activities that might benefit students in any way.
The problem is when the public (e.g. MOE, parents, community leaders) make unreasonable demands on the time of teachers. And then take them for granted. As if teachers are obliged to be at their beck and call.
No. Teachers are not your little lap dog.
As if that’s not bad enough, it seems that when it comes to education, everyone is an expert. Our teacher friends often tell us of parents dictating to them what they think needs to be done. Often, it seems like those parents think that they are some fount of “infinite wisdom”, and that teachers don’t know any better.
As one of our teacher friends told us:
“Some times really buay tahan some parents. They so good, they educate their children themselves la!”
Why can’t we treat our teachers like professionals? If you are going for a heart surgery, do you think you will be rude to the surgeon about to cut you up? No, right? Would you tell your surgeon what to do, where to cut, how to sew you back up? No, right? Then why would you do that to teachers? You mean you are more of an expert at educating your child than the teachers who have spent years honing their craft?
But actually, many of our teachers are really not professionals. They are saints. We know many teachers who take their job as a teacher not really as a job, not as a career, not as a profession. But as a calling. One that they are deeply passionate about. One that they are willing to give their heart, mind, and soul to.
They don’t need a helluvalot of performance bonuses or yearly promotion whatsoever to motivate them. For many, all they need… is to see their students succeed. To a teacher, nothing is as rewarding as a student, all grown up and doing well, going back to visit him to say a simple “Thank you, sir”.
As for the rest of us, the least we can do is to give teachers a little bit more respect. And a little bit more gratitude. So…