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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Teachers’ complaints valid and reasonable

AS I have many teachers in my extended family, I feel the need to respond to the letter “Be sure you love teaching before joining the profession” (The Star, April 13) in order to clarify some misconceptions about the teaching profession.

Firstly, it is true that most teachers have lifelong job security. However, if you think teaching is so laidback and easy, you should try handling one of the more raucous classes for a week and see if it changes your perception.

The average fresh entry into the profession has to go through 30 to 40 years before reaching retirement. Many of these years will be spent struggling with students who have absolutely no desire to learn.

Secondly, I disagree with the view that most school teachers have plenty of free time. Don’t generalise from a few, highly visible examples who seem to be touting the latest health supplement at every opportunity.

It is true that most school sessions last only half the day. However, dedicated teachers have most of their non-teaching hours taken up by meetings, co-curricular duties, lesson preparations, endless marking of books and test papers, and various committee responsibilities. Wouldn’t any non-teacher protest if their non-office hours were intruded upon by such obligations?

If some teachers attend to family matters or hold tuition classes in between, it is through the sacrifice of their own personal time and energy. Again, would any of us in the private sector accept our bosses telling us how to spend our free time once we have clocked out?

Thirdly, the number of holidays that teachers get is often the envy of other sectors. However, this is somewhat offset when meetings are held in the middle of school holidays.

Teachers also have fewer days of personal leave to use for important events like weddings, and such leave is subject to potentially strict approval.

Finally and most importantly, many teachers do indeed love teaching. It is the whole reason they joined the profession in the first place. Again, don’t let a few opportunists who brag about their light schedules and plentiful holidays tarnish the entire profession.

Many teachers today feel that they are overburdened with paperwork and other compulsory tasks that interfere with their lesson preparations and actual teaching.

These teachers signed onto the job aspiring to teach and guide eager young students, but they didn’t realise that inputting of data, compiling of statistics and writing of progress reports would form the bulk of their work. And this is not even including the after-hours obligations I mentioned earlier.

So give teachers a break, including a little respect and sympathy. If some teachers ask that their working conditions be made a little less strenuous and distracting, it is a valid and reasonable request.

SCOTT THONG YU YUEN,

Ipoh.

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