18 October, 2008

Teachers Matter

Teachers Matter. On Friday of last week the annual general meeting of the Anguilla Teachers Union took place. I was asked to speak on the theme for this year's World Teachers' Day. A bit of research soon revealed that a lot of thinking and publishing has gone into the subject. I had no difficulty finding things to say.

While I was on the topic, it occurred to me that my experience with my arithmetic teacher might be relevant. So, I told the gathered teachers about Mr Rais. This was what I said:

  1. I want to tell you about Mr Rais. He was my arithmetic teacher when I went to boarding school in Trinidad at 9 years of age. This was a long time ago. The main teaching tool then was the chalk board and a wood-backed duster to wipe it clean from time to time. Mr Rais made me learn my tables. He taught additions, subtractions and multiplications. It must have been very boring for him. He used to pace up and down the spaces between the desks as we did our class assignments. He would peer over my shoulder at my exercise book. Every time he noticed an error, he would rap me on the top of my head with the wooden back of the duster.

  2. To this day, I cannot multiply beyond 5. The 10 times table was easy. You just had to add a zero to the figure. If I have to work out 8 times 8, I can only do it by adding 3 times 8 to 5 times 8. Or, for variety, I might subtract 2 times 8 from 10 times 8. I failed mathematics at O-Level twice.

  3. I loved physics and chemistry from Form 1. I asked for a chemistry set as a Christmas gift every year. I did well in those subjects right up to Form 5. Then, mathematics entered the picture. I failed both physics and chemistry at O-Level. When I think of that teacher, a special loathing rises in me.”

So, yes, teachers do matter. In more ways than one. And, yes, I joined the Union. I am now a fully paid up member.

If you would like to read the speech, it is available here.


  1. Ha! You were never taught by nuns in the 50's -- an eraser? Please. I have scars on my knuckles from Sister Clotine & her ruler, both of whom were determined that I would not be left-handed (work of the devil, you know). I once saw a nun smash a kid's head into the blackboard & blood ran into the chalk tray. Needless to say, I no longer go to Catholic services.

  2. Very interesting...there are many themes here for generating debate on education. What I would rather like to entertain is how far have we really moved into the 21st century.
    - Are we still using 19th century techniques and tools for 21 century learners?

    - Is the fear tactic of intimidation still used by many teachers?

    - are teachers really embracing change to improve their profession?

  3. This also reminiscent of a song by Sparrow 'Dan is the man in the van'

  4. Leroy, what's wrong with kids being "afraid" of instructors? If they don't get it at this point in their life, most likely they never will. To make my point, I will try a smit of whimsical songs of the past:

    Honna ya motha, and you fatha
    that ya days,
    maybe long in the land
    Children obey ya, parents and the law,
    this is the law, of the prophets.
    - Desmond Decker

    'Cause like a picture she was laying there
    Moonlight dancing off her hair
    She woke up and took me by the hand
    She's gonna love me in my Chevy van
    And that's alright with me. - Sammy Johns.

    Or..... Dad, I wish you could just shut your big yapper! Brian, from what I've heard, you're using your paper, not for writing, but for rolling doobies!! You're gonna be doing a lot of doobie-rolling when you're living in a VAN, DOWN BY THE RIVER! What do you want to do with your life?! - Chris Farley.

    Those that know less; look up to them, that can bridge the gap separating immachurity from basic successes. - Scotty


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