Sunday, November 02, 2008

Teachers need to earn their respect too (Caroline Lim, Today, 30/10, p24)

I refer to “Different strokes required” (Oct 29), and would like to highlight that not only are students of current times different from those of yesteryears’ but that teachers have changed with the times.

Most local teachers are products of the educational system and our changing society and it is appalling to read of teachers being convicted or investigated for molestation or outrage of modesty.

A week ago, in the first case of its kind here in Singapore, a female teacher was charged with having sex with an underage student. And there was a recent media report about teachers moonlighting as bar top/pole dancers.

Besides paper qualifications, are teachers’ character assessed before they are hired? When more than 90 per cent of Singapore students rely on private tutors and commercial tuition centres as helping hands towards attaining academic excellence, I wonder what exactly are the roles of current school teachers?

What has gone wrong that teachers who spend at least six hours a day, five days a week with their students are not commanding sufficient respect? Do they themselves lack discipline in the first place? Are they worthy of respect in the first place?
Gee thanks for tarring everyone with the same brush. That's really fair and well-deserved.

The role of a teacher is supposed to be simple - to teach. But the moment things start coming in that detract from it, we start running out of time. When we do that, we have to rush. When we rush, learning inadvertently drops. And that's where tutors, who earn more than us by the way, come in. MOE has to decide if they want teachers to focus on teaching, or if they want the children to turn to tutors instead. Tutors may do a better job because of one word - ratio. Let's have them teach 40 and see if they can handle it.

I laugh to myself when you ask if MOE considers character when they hire teachers. I'd like to see you get off your high horse and propose how you'd measure the character of someone you are interviewing. You don't even know the character of some of your colleagues whom you've worked with for years. How then do you expect MOE to get all the bad apples out of the basket?

Moreover, do your research before you shoot letters off to the press. Since when do teachers spend six hours (at least!) with our students. We'd be lucky to get three. Factor in school holidays, exams and other special events, and the average goes way down. And what character values can you effectively impart when your focus is on getting their attention when they are over-stimulated at home by parents who use the TV/PC as a babysitter, and then again with virtually all time-proven discipline methods banned by MOE because of aforementioned over-protective parents?

You really can't have your cake and eat it. If you don't want us to discipline, do it yourself. And if you want us to do it, stop telling us we can't do anything remotely effective.

Finally, I say the main reason children lack respect for teachers is partly because of what parents do. I witnessed a parent call a maid stupid in front of her children. Gee, that will really make the children listen to the maid when the mum's not around.

Children no longer have fear of discipline. Inconsistent discipline at home teaches them how to get away with it and they pull the same stunts at school. But our hands are tied. How long before they call our bluff? Epiphany: "Hey! You can't do anything to me! Even if you call my parents, they don't do anything either!"

Spare the rod and spoil the child. But our generation has chosen to spoil the future of our nation instead.

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