By Dr. Angela Banner Joseph

“Compassionate teachers fill a void left by working parents who aren’t able to devote enough attention to their children. Teachers don’t just teach; they can be vital personalities who help young people to mature, to understand the world, and to understand themselves. A good education consists of much more than useful facts and marketable skills.”–Charles Platt

Annually, teachers each silently conduct a major self-assessment of how to provide their students with options, encouragement, and awareness of the importance of learning. They tap into the souls of students who are not empowered to learn and teach them that no matter what the students choose to do, they should be the best that they can be. Our teachers are mandated to teach with competence and responsibility. Ironically, responsibility does require competence.

Teachers are required to ask probing questions, to be curious, to learn from experience, to strengthen individual critical thinking skills, to reflect, to take responsibility for personal learning, to learn how to become cognitively aware of students’ impediments, and to engage in pedagogy and collaborative learning. However, teachers often get the short end of the stick. Their responsibilities are monumental, especially when they must work with limited resources and improper training. How are they supposed to do their jobs without the necessary learning tools and skill sets? As a teacher, some of the main goals are to encourage students to thirst for knowledge and to show them the importance of taking responsibility for their own learning. Similarly, administration tells teachers that both they and the students are learners in the classroom, and that both are responsible for the success of the time spent together and the teacher’s professional growth.

Teachers are told it is their responsibility to prepare their students for the 21st century but they are offered 1892 resources. Imagine: we live in a technological world and yet we still don’t have computer stations for our children in all schools. I thought that the world was flat, where technology made us all globally equal. How can teachers show their immediate school administrators that they are responsible in the classroom if they lack this necessary teaching tool to keep up with the global community?

Teachers are further mandated to leave the classroom with a feeling that they had a part in the students’ learning, which includes encouraging students to participate in their own learning and allowing students to challenge themselves as they make the decision to learn. With time, teachers hope they will encourage students to reflect on their personal growth. Teachers hope this reflection will enhance the students’ own awareness and involvement as they absorb the complexities of learning.

Many teachers join the profession for the love of learning and teaching. They need the opportunity to be free and limitless as they engage in new forms of substantive and progressive knowledge in the classroom. They share their great imaginations with their students and they expect their students to do the same as they embrace each subject.

Teachers engage their students in open dialogues to learn their opinions and allow them to be heard as the teachers successfully improve on the teaching and learning process. Teachers hope that as they open the classroom doors, they will offer students the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking; to participate in collaborative work with colleagues; to experience complex material through new, simplified ways of thinking; and to have an opportunity to be accepted and not marginalized by members of the community: students, teachers, parents and senior administration.

Equally, as teachers prepare for the new academic year, they begin to plan for an uncertain future. Teachers are uncertain about whether they will receive the necessary resources to do their jobs and to improve their teaching techniques and whether they will get a raise. Teachers wonder how to best connect with students, how to prepare students for life’s challenges, and how to provide students with the best instruction based on the curriculum and required technological tools. Current technology is essential to further students’ intellectual development so they can pass future standardized tests and compete globally. Teachers wonder how to provide their students with the best educational experience.
These tasks cannot be done without support and without a strong foundation. Teachers pray that their senior administrators will respect them and their students as they watch teachers use with limited resources to challenge students and inspire the next generation while remaining confident and in control of the class. Administrators can watch teachers encourage the students to do better; teach each student with a unique learning style in a variety of new ways; and do all this with clarity, consistency, and firmness.

I close by saying that teachers have one of the most difficult professions on earth and they have a monumental task ahead of them to prepare the next generation. In fact, teachers will help create every future leader and professional in our nation. I pray that teachers will receive support from their senior administrators, adequate resources, and a respectable raise in the new academic year, as they justly deserve.

The Belize Times