The Jamaica Observer

Career & Education shares with you this week the thoughts of Vivienne Turnbull concerning the value of male teachers in the classroom and how Jamaica could, potentially, attract more men to help educate and mentor the island’s boys. Turnbull is an image and communications consultant.

WHEN I attended high school and college, there was no shortage of male teachers in the classroom. I suspect this had a positive impact on students, especially males.

There was certainly more discipline, and my male contemporaries have done as well as their female counterparts. Looking back, I suppose the male teacher represented a father figure, especially for those who did not have a father at home.

George Herbert wrote, “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” However, one schoolmaster or schoolteacher who fathers a hundred students is better than those fathers whose role is confirmed exclusively to giving life. I distinctly recall such a schoolteacher – Mr Francis.

He was an immaculately dressed, medium-built six-footer who wore black-rimmed rectangular glasses which he glared over to underscore his disapproval. He spoke thunderously and in perfect English even when he was angry. I believe, however, that the main reason Mr Francis was able to keep order and interest was because he showed interest and commanded the respect of all who came in contact with him.

It was a combination of his no-nonsense reputation, calm disposition and encouraging attitude that earned him respect. It was also that he, too, showed respect to everyone with whom he came in contact. He was prompt for classes. He listened attentively whenever he was involved in a discourse. He was chivalrous towards women. He also complimented generously and genuinely those who deserved praise. Of more relevance is that Mr Francis was competent in the subjects he taught and he cared about the welfare of his students.

What if this competence and compassion could be replicated by distinguished retired or retiring male professionals willing to make the transition to a classroom after successfully serving in the private or public sector? Bear in mind that professionals retire at different ages and for different reasons. They may alternatively be looking to do something more meaningful with their lives. It is during this stage of life that many people experience the need for self-actualisation as defined by Maslow in his theory – the Hierarchy of Needs.

These professionals may find fulfilment in teaching and being a mentor to young men who need somebody to look up to and identify with. What if some of these professionals were willing to accept the lower salaries of teachers in exchange for the opportunity to give back to society?

What if some professionals would be willing to donate a year or more to teaching? Some of these professionals have no plans for further work and may welcome the slower pace of a classroom to the drastic halt of retirement. Could not our Ministry of Education start a national register of qualified persons who would be interested in giving back in this way?