By Dr Panayiotis K. Mavros
September 2016! A new school year has already commenced, but a truly fresh start for a fruitful year remains an unfulfilled dream as usual.
“The September syndrome” has struck once more with the channels of communication between Primary and Secondary Teachers’ Unions (OELMEK-POED) and the Ministry of Education being completely blocked.
Both Secondary and Primary teachers consider the Minister of Education responsible for wrong decisions which have brought educational matters to a stalemate, maintaining that his promises for real change have turned out to be false.
We believe that there is an element of exaggeration as regards the teachers’ accusations, for the origin of the argument was the appointment of more primary teachers due to the increase in the number of students in Primary Education which is disputed by OELMEK whose threat for strikes and work stoppages might upset the beginning of the new school year.
And one wonders why the above matter in question has not been tabled for negotiations before so that this year’s new beginning could be a real, positive start, free from the “September syndrome”. Such negative beginnings do not bode well for a fruitful school year. Such a start negates efforts to achieve noble educational goals through collective work, collaboration and coordination.
Nevertheless, in today’s article we will view the beginning of the school year from a different angle which concerns the limits set by teachers as regards the relation with their students being of paramount importance for a fruitful school year.
This relationship presupposes consistency concerning the approach of the teacher towards the student aiming at a productive school year with changes waiting for implementation. If we lose this battle, no reform on paper can be brought to a successful conclusion.
Therefore, teachers should be very cautious when dealing with students, doing their best to win the respect and love of every student, irrespective of academic performance, so that mutuality of feelings in the mixed ability class will flourish, resulting in the realisation of our goals. Consequently, it is of paramount importance to adopt the right approach in class from the very beginning, taking into account a variety of factors involved, which affect the whole situation.
The school is a place where teenagers, being rebellious by nature, are searching for an identity exhibiting behaviour which ranges from blind obedience to the school rules to juvenile delinquency. The question which arises concerns our approach and attitude as teachers towards teenagers especially those whose behaviour upsets the smooth running of the school. It is an axiom in education that teachers who are responsible for their students’ education in any and every way do not take action against students unless they themselves have done everything in their power and even beyond it to locate the origin of their improper behaviour and offer their valuable help which might assist the student to comprehend the error he committed and attempt to modify his behaviour.
Unfortunately, the behaviour exhibited by ‘lively’ students is all the more repellant to most teachers because they consider it incomprehensible. They cannot conceive that the diversity which exists in a group justifies all kinds of behaviour and it is their duty to dig deep enough and penetrate to find the ‘button’ which could remedy ‘the evil’ before it is too late. We, teachers may fail to grasp the significance of the above axiom and hastily resort to criticism and punishment fully exercising our authority over the students ignoring or overlooking the fact that beset by influences of many kinds, the modern teenager needs efficient and effective guidance to avoid falling into traps.
The teacher’s authority to judge students’ behaviour and performance in class is generally accepted by most students who rarely question his decisions. However, students labelled as troublemakers do not accept the teacher’s authority a priori.
They use their own criteria to assess the teacher’s ‘performance’ and reach their conclusions whether the teacher was fair in his judgement and if his authority was exercised in a proper way. Consequently, the teacher has to prove that the specific actions towards them were taken on suitable grounds; if he fails to do so then he is in real trouble.
If, on the other hand, sufficient justification for the above actions is provided, suspicions are eliminated and the troublemaker is completely transformed into an ordinary student. It is not, therefore, paradoxical that students are troublemakers in one class and ordinary students in another class.
Students, able, less able, more proficient, lively troublemakers, delinquents have intelligence and they are human. It is imperative that we, teachers value them as equal, listen to their internal cries of despair and provide them with emotional shelter, care for their needs, help them to develop their abilities and potential and more importantly treat them justly.
Students should never be looked down upon, for they are the best judges of the teachers’ work. They need attention, love and respect, which they will certainly return to their teachers thus forming channels of communication through which this mutuality of feelings will flourish. The pedagogical problem posed for us urgently necessitates the detection of new ideas which would provide us with plenty of ammunition to treat students in the right fashion within the school walls through a sea of love our teenage students need badly in a world of which the predominant feature is alienation.
Our contemporary society has undergone profound transformations which understandably demand changes in our methods of teaching, the approach we develop towards students and the attitude we adopt to tackle our task, which should be viewed comprehensively from the academic, sociological and pedagogical points of view.
Only then can we pride ourselves on acting as change agents by improving the structure of our educational system, which is crying out for reform. Consequently, we should strive hard together to devise the formula for the way ahead in order to bring justice, success, progress, achievement, happiness and honour to the educational service for the young generation who will take over the responsibility as grown-ups to hopefully create a better world, which is the very core of education.