TEACHERS hold the future of the nation in their hands, but they also hold one of the most challenging occupations and work in a most stressful environment.
Chairman of the Children’s Authority Hanif Benjamin, in making this statement, said working in such a high-stressed environment can take its toll on a teacher’s health and well-being.
He said children who have their own trauma and challenges need adults who are mentally and physically fit to guide them as they find their way in the world. Addressing teachers at a TTUTA South East convention in Princes Town, Benjamin said a burnt-out and stressed teacher cannot achieve this.
“Burnt-out teachers hurt children,” he said as urged them to take care of themselves because they are the heartbeat of the education system.
“Some of them ‘retire’ on the job: they come to school and do nothing. There are others who lash out violently towards children – but I am advocating for them to take care of themselves because they hold the nation in the palm of their hands, literally.
“All our prime ministers, our presidents, our priests, our pundits, have emerged from the hands of teachers. Even criminals. When you look at the newspaper you may say, ‘That was my student,’ and wonder, ‘Where did things go wrong?’
“The profession is as noble as it is difficult, because you are literally shaping the life of an individual. All of us can sit today and think about a bad teacher or a good teacher who influenced our lives.”
A clinical therapist and traumatologist, Benjamin told his audience of teachers, “Every child needs a champion. As teachers, you have a tremendous responsibility to help students understand and learn about the world around them. Events such as these allow you to reflect on the critical role that you, as individual teachers and the profession as a whole, play in the education system.
“Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The influence of good teachers could never be erased, as education is the most empowering force in the world. It creates knowledge, builds confidence and breaks down barriers to opportunities. For children, it is their key to open the door to a better life.”
Based on this perspective, Benjamin said teachers, understanding that problems do not remain at the doorsteps of classrooms, can respond by creating a predictable environment with clear and consistent rules. He said teachers can also provide the youths with choices to help them feel some sense of control, anticipate difficult times and plan ahead, focusing on their strengths and the positive.
For the educators themselves, he recommended sleep, exercise and nutrition to achieve both physical and emotional wellness, and finding healing through music, self-reflection and self-awareness.
He cited a quote from Deepa Bhushan, “Teachers, you don’t teach a subject, you teach a child.”