Per­for­mance-based mumbo-jumbo

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Ge­orge Davis is a broad­cast ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and talk-show host at Sport­sMax. Email feed­back to columns@ glean­ and ge­orge.s.davis@hot­

THE ME­DIA have done an or­di­nary job of pro­vid­ing the pub­lic with in­for­ma­tion to seed the cloud of the de­bate over the is­sue of per­for­mance-based pay for teach­ers.

We have lazily re­sorted to re­port­ing ‘he said this’ and ‘she said that’, gar­gling the words of so-and-so pres­i­dent so-and-so chair­man, be­fore spit­ting them in news­pa­pers, through ra­dio and on TV for con­sump­tion by our au­di­ence.

As a man who ran in­tensely on this same tread­mill for the last six years, I will ac­knowl­edge that the me­dia have failed to in­ves­ti­gate and tell sto­ries of the teach­ers drown­ing in a morass of ram­pantly un­ruly chil­dren, an un­der­funded school man­age­ment sys­tem, along with prin­ci­pals who can­not man­age the neat but­ter­ing of a slice of bread, let alone something as de­mand­ing as a pri­mary school.


And be­cause of our fail­ure, the con­ver­sa­tion around teach­ers get­ting per­for­mance-based pay is prej­u­diced, with the Ja­maica Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (JTA) and its front-line sol­diers be­ing made to look like de­fend­ers of slack­ness when they dis­miss talk of link­ing class­room per­for­mance and stu­dent re­sults to re­mu­ner­a­tion.

The JTA’s stance on per­for­mance­based pay is about the only ma­jor is­sue on which I can agree with this trade union. The or­gan­i­sa­tion usu­ally plays a good po­lit­i­cal game as both mol­ly­cod­dler and at­tack dog for Maas Joshua’s party.

But as this Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues in of­fice, I will have many op­por­tu­ni­ties to call out the JTA. But at least on the ‘pay-based-on-re­sults’ mat­ter, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has the in­ter­ests of the ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers at heart.

Those of us with chil­dren in the prep-school sys­tem are un­aware of the re­al­i­ties faced by more than 10,000 men and women work­ing in the pri­mary-school sys­tem. When we drop off our kin and walk them to their air­con­di­tioned classes and mar­vel at how quiet and stu­dious they look when en­gaged in iPad time (with the iPad ‘pro­vided’ by the school at great cost to you), we leave with a warped view of the re­al­ity in the ma­jor­ity of schools.

Within the bub­ble that we bind our­selves, there is only space for us to ex­pect that teach­ers must be able to make ge­niuses of our chil­dren, there­fore, we can­not en­ter­tain any ob­jec­tion or rea­soned coun­ter­point to the ar­gu­ment that teach­ers must earn rel­a­tive to the level at which they per­form and stu­dents pro­duce re­sults. Sadly, too many of our pol­i­cy­mak­ers spend too much time sniff­ing the nitrous of lux­ury and com­fort that they hawk such reg­u­la­tions on the teach­ing pro­fes­sion, fool­ishly be­liev­ing it to be log­i­cal.

A friend of mine re­lated to me re­cently about how an eight-year-old boy at his ru­ral school stole some for­eign cur­rency from the hand­bag of a teacher in an­other grade. The boy’s par­ents had no idea where he fled to af­ter the act. The boy re­turned to the un­se­cured school com­pound days later and pro­ceeded to rob sev­eral stu­dents of monies they had been given by their par­ents to pay for an ex­pe­di­tion. This af­ter he was ap­par­ently tipped off that stu­dents would be walk­ing with ex­tra cash that day.

Again he could not be lo­cated by par­ents, who lamented how they had no idea how to han­dle him and had begged Gov­ern­ment, with­out suc­cess, to take him off their hands.

My friend, who reg­u­larly has to use his mea­gre teacher’s salary to buy tooth­paste, tooth­brushes, along with other toi­letries, to give to stu­dents un­der his charge, was at his wits’ end. He moaned about his class of 28 grade­three stu­dents and how only about two of them could recog­nise the let­ters of the al­pha­bet. He says the next time he calls me, he’ll be ask­ing for help to get a job so he can es­cape hell.

His sit­u­a­tion is not an iso­lated one; nor are the stu­dent prob­lems re­lated. My friend laughs at the idea of per­for­mance-based pay and re­minds me that every­thing in his class­room is soaked dur­ing even moder­ate rain be­cause the roof ex­ists in name only. And yet we sit in board­rooms at The Gleaner-RJR, Ob­server, Na­tion­wide and else­where, bang­ing ta­bles and speak­ing pas­sion­ately about the need for per­for­mance-based pay in lo­cal schools. KMT.


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