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High School Classroom in California

Source: Downey’s Warren High School (www.wattway.org)

A nation without good public education, easily accessible to all of its citizens, is a nation built on sand. With the globalization of the world’s economy and technological advances in every professional field, our children have to compete with the best across the planet. Our high school curriculum must be geared to meeting existing as well as projected needs of our society. To successfully prepare our children to take their place in society, our teachers must have a sound knowledge base in their fields and continually upgrade their knowledge and skills. Teachers must have the support of the school administration and government educational authority in exercising their function. Classrooms must be equipped for and conducive to learning and study.

For seven years as a young woman, I served my native land – the young independent nation of Guyana – as a high school geography and art teacher. My role as a teacher went way beyond imparting knowledge and working towards high grades. Our children would much rather do something else than sit around in a classroom. As a high school teacher, I had the task of motivating and engaging my students (from 11 to 18 years) in the learning process; creating interest in the material taught and making it relevant to their lives; stimulating critical thinking and analytical skills; and developing their potential as individuals with unique talents and skills.

I could not be a school teacher today. During my four-year working experience in a retail store in Los Angeles, I witnessed on several occasions the difficulties young parents face in controlling their kids. On one occasion, I was horrified (culture shock?) by a parent’s reaction when I told her eight-year-old to stop removing the price labels from the product display. Before stopping her child, she glared at me with a look that said: Who are you to discipline my child? Left unchecked, this lack or absence of discipline only worsens over time.

Teachers are not miracle workers. When discipline is lapse or non-existent in the school or classroom, teachers cannot perform their duties. Moreover, without the input and participation of parents or guardians in the learning process, the lazy, disinterested, underachiever or disruptive student will be left behind. With adolescents now wired to portable electronic devices, our teachers also face new challenges in engaging students in the learning process. To evaluate a teacher’s performance solely on the grades of his or her students can be likened to preparing baked turkey for our Thanksgiving lunch without an oven.

When teachers and parents cannot work together to prepare our children to take their place in the world, our children are ill-equipped for adult life; our businesses and industries cannot find qualified workers and professionals; and our nation slips behind.

Our dedicated high school teachers are not mere data entry professionals who input data into our children’s brain cells. As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day on November 24, let us give thanks for the teachers who have changed the course of our lives.