By Lakhram Bhagirat
“After being in the teaching system, in and out of Guyana, for twenty-three years, I’ve noticed an increase in professionalism of teachers, they are able to assess quality work and so deliver.
Professionalism definitely improves teaching. We always have to deal with students’ diversity, as always, they learn at their own pace, show unique personalities etc teachers are now better equipped to serve students with special education needs,” said Miss Maria Reid.
The teaching profession has changed significantly over the years and according to Reid, it has evolved from the years of a lot of chalk and talk with handmade graphics to improved curriculum and teaching strategies. Technology and social media have now transformed teaching and students can use their devices for research.
“There’s now an increased demand on responsibility and accountability of teachers and by extension students, teachers’ evaluation system incorporates students test scores. There are more qualified teachers because of the system in place for teachers to advance academically,” Reid notes.
Reid unwillingly joined the teaching profession in September of 1997 at Canje Secondary School in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne). She always wanted to become a lawyer but her mother could not afford to fund her university studies.
“I reluctantly wrote the application as was done then and I took it to the Department of Education. Upon arrival, I saw a long line of applicants, so I returned home only to be sent back. After being interviewed I was appointed to Canje Secondary – this was a deterrent because CSS was constantly on the news and not,” she recounted.
When she joined the staff there, she was met with students who just needed to be heard and understood and a hardworking and dedicated teaching staff. She took up the challenge of making sure that every student was given a fair opportunity to grasp the concept of what was being taught.
After joining the profession, she attended the Cyril Potter College of Education from 1999-2002 where she fell in love with the job and decided to continue. She worked and over the years she was promoted to Head the English Department.
In 2007, she resigned from that post and migrated to Anguilla. There she worked at Central Christian School from 2007 as an ordinary teacher then three years later was promoted to Vice Principal then Acting Principal from 2014.
Central Christian School catered to students from pre-elementary. She taught the Grade 3 class for a number of years, which was not by choice, since the parents did not want her to move from that class even after she assumed the Principal (ag) post.
“Grade 3 set the foundation for the external exam (Test of Standards) which is similar to our NGSA examination. I can fondly remember parents telling their children who were being defiant to other teachers You wait unit you get to teacher Maria’s class.”
She said that the students at CCS were tasked with two different curriculums – the Government Curriculum and the school’s curriculum (The Abeka Programme). The overall top five students on the island in each subject area were handsomely rewarded and celebrated each year and she always ensured that her students were in that top bracket.
In 2017, she ventured into starting a school of her own. All of the systems were put in place and ready to open but then hurricane Irma came and devastated 95 per cent of the island and her Reid, Simeon’s Christian Academy became a mere dream.
Having suffered this huge loss as most, she decided that it was time to return home.
She reapplied to begin teaching and after an elongated wait, was appointed to Manchester Secondary School where her journey now continues.
While the teaching system has improved significantly, the journey is nowhere near the end. Poverty plays a big role in hindering both the access to and delivery of education.
“While some are privileged to have a warm meal before attending school, others aren’t so fortunate, making it difficult for students to focus. I’ve had students showed up unprepared for projects because they cannot afford the materials.
“We are presently faced with a pandemic and we are doing our best to reach as many students as possible but it’s difficult; this is so because many cannot afford a device or Wi-Fi. Some areas are without phone lines and the internet services provided in those areas are extremely weak, making it difficult for access,” she said.
She noted that parental involvement is also needed in the education of the nation’s children.
Over the years, she has formed bonds with her students and became personally involved in their journeys as they navigate life. She noted that she is the happiest when her students excel.
“The first year of teaching is the most challenging, not that there won’t be any other challenges along the way but you’ll gradually learn to overcome them. Your students may forget the facts taught in class but they will never forget how you make them feel. I believe teaching is a calling. You have to have the passion, patience and most of all love for children and bettering lives. So, I would tell anyone who wants to join us in this noble profession be sure teaching is what you truly want to do before applying.
“It’s important that you find a mentor, empathise with your students, be fair and firm (mean what you say and say what you mean) they will certainly test you to see how much they can get away with. Always create an atmosphere whereby your students will feel safe, confident, empowered and important. Teach them not to give up by never giving up yourself,” she advised.