Hundreds of public school teachers and administrators were urged on Tuesday morning to strive harder to provide quality education for children under their guidance.
This was the recurring directive from education officials and union representatives who brought remarks at the Teacher's Enrichment 2014 Seminar at the Jack Hayward High School Gymnasium.
Under the theme, "Quality Education for Equitable Development: Performance, Paths, and Productivity," administrators, returning educators and first-time teachers were encouraged to work together to cater to the specific needs of all students to ensure that each graduating student is well-equipped to survive in the workforce.
In her keynote address, Associate Vice President of the College of the Bahamas Northern Campus Dr. Ellamae Johnson-Dennard told the teachers and administrators that in their quest to provide quality education they must operate justly to truly achieve "equitable development" as the theme calls for.
She said that when educating children, it is important to remember that equity does not amount to equality and, she noted, this would often mean that teachers must work harder to ensure that each student has grasped the material.
" Equity in education has two dimensions. One is fairness.
" Equality says everyone is given the same no matter their needs. Fairness gives each person what they need individually. We must be fair to all of our children.
" The second dimension in education equity is inclusion. That inclusion means making sure that there is a basic minimum standard of education for all students; not only for the academically inclined. Every child should be able to read, do math at the four operations, at the very least, and to write. We should not be graduating illiterates. That "inclusion" should be extended to students with disabilities," she said.
By law, disabled children have a right of access to the least restrictive environment, which, in some cases, is a mainstream classroom, informed Johnson-Denard and she implored teachers and administrators to not view students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or similar disorders as incapable of being taught. Instead, she said, these children learn differently, and as such, educators must be innovative to cater to their needs.
" Every child is worth something.
" Every child is special. It is our task as administrators, teachers, to whom these children have been entrusted, to draw out of them the best," she said.
Continuing, Johnson-Denard stressed that it is vital for teachers to use affirmative approaches with students and to teach them to respect themselves.
According to Johnson-Dennard, students who learn to value themselves from an early age are more likely to respect others, develop positive attitudes and grow to become constructive adults.
" If we help our children to respect themselves" ....much of the negative behavior that goes on will be eradicated.
" If, from kindergarten and through college, we emphasize to our children that respect leads to discipline which then leads to acceptable behavior, our country would not have the migraine that it is experiencing right now."
For too long, she added, "children have been allowed to slip through the cracks which has led to an increasing number of high school graduates with subpar grades and poor literacy skills.
Johnson-Dennard, therefore, charged the educators to commit to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology's mission statement, which calls on its workforce to equip all persons with the knowledge, skills, beliefs and attitudes necessary to thrive in the labor force and live in a democratic society.
Deputy Director of Education for Grand Bahama, Bimini and The Cays Sandra Edgecombe shared similar sentiments, but further advised administrators and teachers not treat each other like "rejects" either.
She encouraged the assembly of principals and teaching staff to work together and settle differences amicably this upcoming school year, as she expressed a desire to focus on improving education and school environments for students.
" Until you get to Heaven Primary, and Heaven High, there are no perfect schools.
" There is no perfect school. They come with their challenges. They come with their difficulties. If you're not prepared to paddle up the creek, even with a leak in your canoe, then speak now, because I will not be tied down with such discussions."
During her remarks, Edgecombe also took the time to welcome new teachers, commend returning teachers and administrators for last yearâ s achievements and recognize those educators who received promotions.
She told them that the year that lies ahead will be an uphill battle for everyone, including education officials, however she said she is prepared to work harder because there are numerous students who are still in need assistance.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson noted that this coming school season will be marked as a " monumental" one.
"In addition to teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, other issues are paramount in our lives the implementation of value-added tax; the referendum for the amendments to our constitution, the transition of the College of the Bahamas to a university; the exploration for oil, mining of aragonite, renewable energy" ....and the implementation of the high school diploma," Wilson said.
She said that if administrators and teachers are to provide quality education then full consideration must be given to the introduction of national issues that will affect the nation.
Wilson suggested that the curriculum could change in order to prepare youth for the society in which they will soon become key players.
" Math and Business teachers, you will have to teach your students between September and Decemebr how to calculate VAT at 7.5 percent," she said.
" History, Social Studies and Civics teachers, you will have to explain the constitutional bills and amendments and the implications of voting or not voting on referendum day. Teachers you will have to teach our students about character, morals, values and integrity, which will assist in decreasing crime and unemployment."
She told teachers that demographic they will serve is an integral part of the development of the education system.
Wilson said she anticipates a memorable school year and pledged that the BUT would continue to protect the rights, defend the causes, negotiate raises and better the working conditions of teachers across the island.