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Dear Teachers, Please Learn to Say “NO”

Editor’s Desk

CBSE issued a circular last year forbidding schools from engaging teachers in any activities other than teaching, conducting examinations and evaluation. Inspite of such directives, teachers are still often heard complaining about being overworked not only with academic work but also things which are extraneous and do not come under the ambit of teaching and evaluation.

Unfortunately these teachers have become the scapegoat for all lacunae in  our education system. This brings us to an important question as to why teachers are not respected in India and what daily battles they wage for survival irrespective of whether they are working in a government school, private school or an international curriculum school.

School Teaching is not considered as one of the most sought after careers in India; hence the primary challenge is to raise the status of teaching as a career choice. This stems from the myopic notion that people harbor about this profession which is, that anyone can become a teacher as it takes minimal skill.

Well, to some extent it is true as a non competitive teacher really has minimal skills whereas a good teacher has leadership skills which can even challenge a senior manager of a company. This status can also be attributed by our hiring process in B.Ed programs.

In South Korea , Australia, Singapore and Finland teachers are selected from the top 10 per cent of college pass-outs which means in such countries competition for entry to teacher education program is intense. Only one in 10 applicants is accepted to study to become a primary teacher in Finland.

This shows the respect that teachers possess in these countries as only the best and the brightest of the lot are in this profession, naturally conferring it to be one of the most highly regarded fields.

In India this tradition of hiring the best is practiced by Teach for India, Gandhi fellowship etc by recruiting the best college graduates or even corporate honchos with exemplary leadership skills as teaching fellows in their fellowship program. However there is no such hiring policy for school teachers in general.

Such a competitive yardstick also eludes teacher selection as teaching is one of the most underpaid jobs barring some schools which strictly adhere to pay commission of scales. Even appreciation in form of financial incentive is not a very popular culture.

These problems are not restricted to government or low cost private schools but also to posh international schools where the average annual fee structure of a student ranges from Rs.6 Lakhs to 10 Lakhs. The school management and board of directors mostly prefer cheap labour.

Again this is because of the low professional status of teachers in our society. The teaching profession is dominated by women and we see very less men who prefer being a teacher. Women are not considered as the primary breadwinner of a family and hence their compensation is abysmally poor compared to the fee structure that these international schools charge.

Teachers don’t have a voice and have no say about educational policy. The concept of motivated teacher is also a flawed one because most of them feel that a motivated teacher is one who is regular to school every day, follows official protocols blindly without questioning and if necessary provide information that management team wants!

The real focus shifts from student learning outcomes to complying orders as found fit by the administrative department relegating teachers to a mere stature of facilitators whose opinion nobody bothers about.

Most importantly lack of awareness of teachers about their own human rights, employee rights, lack of unity among them, tendency of appeasing authorities at any cost are some of the reasons that teachers do not command the respect and authority from the school, the students and over demanding parents any more.

If a student fails, it is the teacher’s fault. If a student succeeds, then it is the achievement of the student alone. Teachers shoulder all the responsibility, but get little recognition or appreciation for their students’ achievement.

Add to it the fact that most teachers return home and spend their quality personal time and weekends marking notebooks, planning lessons, grading answer scripts etc. This means by the end of the day a teacher is mentally and physically exhausted leaving neither any time to pursue a hobby nor any time to socialise with friends except to recharge themselves during summer holidays I presume.

A person who is physically and psychically drained has no time to even enjoy the little pleasures of life, forget about imagining how to upgrade one’s career skills and harbour ambitions to rise in the professional ladder both intellectually and financially. Things have come to such a pass that unless a teacher carries work home, she is not considered a good enough or dedicated enough.

Teachers  should consider themselves as master of their trade and not a slave of their trade. Neither she nor the school nor the helicopter parents should forget that apart from being a teacher, she is also a member of the society as a mother, wife, girl-friend, daughter, sister, a friend, daughter-in-law and so on.

Teachers need to understand that unless they value themselves and their work they cannot reverse the pressures and excesses that are taking this profession downhill.

And the very first step to begin that reversal starts with putting your foot down once in a while.

So teachers,

Learn to say No:

When authorities tell you to share toilets with students

When school allows students to use your toilets but you are not allowed vice versa

When you are not given adequate breaks to attend to your physical needs like lunch, relieving yourself in toilets etc. resulting in rampant issues of gastritis, urinary infection, kidney problems etc. among teachers

When administration insists that you stand and teach in every class even if you had 4 classes at a stretch each of 45 min or more resulting in health issues over time.

When administration insists that you share your personal  phone number with students and parents so as  to be available for them 24*7

When you are asked to check on the cleanliness of school toilets at regular intervals and personally call the janitor and get it spruced up for guests during a school function

When your school insists that you will take a stream of students in line and escort them to the bus one by one and wait in the scorching sun as long as the driver doesn’t finish his chit-chat and come to the driver’s seat. Not only that often you are made to wait until the bus you are responsible for leaves the campus with the students.

When you are made to man entrance gates, corridors , verandas, school campus in the name of “supervision” for full 40-50 minute periods,  during the few off-classes you get to complete your corrections, evaluations and other administrative and teaching work

When your authorities tell you if you see a student standing in the bus ( normally, NOT when he is sick or hurt) , vacate your seat and give it to him/her because TEACHERS DO NOT PAY FOR THE BUS whereas STUDENTS PAY

When parents call you at any hour during evenings or holidays and ask for information when you are off duty.

When you are denied  your legitimate Casual Leave even when your child is running 102 degree fever  at home and are forced to attend school under veiled threats of professional action against you.

When the school insists that you carry clerical work  home each and every day leaving you no personal time for yourself or your family.

When your co ordinators or reps or higher-ups abuse you or reprimand you in front of students or non teaching staff

When just an hour before school gets over, you are suddenly told that you have to stay back till late evening about some administrative work and this happens at least 5-10 times in a month.

When you are bullied or boycotted in the staff room because you are new, or non- elite, or do not conform to or participate in group ism  and gossip.

Whenever you feel your rights and Liberty  as a teacher or a woman or a human are being compromised.

It’s time you all re-claimed the pride and place you all deserve.

Unless you stand up for yourself nobody will.

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