Just before the end of this term I attended a retirement do at the village school I volunteer for. This do was for two teachers, and it was fundamentally a community event.
I first met this community aspect 6 or 7 years ago at the kindergarten I taught at. Once a year the parents have a do at the school in which the kids dance (prepared by the teacher) and the parents bring food. A pleasant day but typically a tedious school event. Various officers from the education department also attended, and I got dragged into a formal meal with them. It was PR but the parents brought the food and it was community.
The retirement do had a lot more. The school had a day off, and the event started at 07.00 am. The thought of attending a school function (in Thai) from that time until early afternoon did my head in, but I wanted to show respect because I had worked with one of the teachers so I attended from 10.30. My Principal who is one of the few Principals I have ever had time for always parades her Native English speaker, and I don’t like it. I do not blame her, my working there apparently increases her school’s selection but I do not like it – it is a Thai community event.
At 10.30 the two retirees were sat on the stage, and the students all went on the stage and poured water from a small cup over the hands – a traditional gesture of respect, I think. I looked at it and became self-conscious as the Principal asked if I wanted to do it. My ego was sufficiently low to realise that if I didn’t it would be disrespectful so I overcame my self-consciousness and did it. This has no relevance at all to this blogpost.
After the whole hall, including parents, education office, police – monks had been there earlier – had paraded past, the dancing started. Every class did some form of Thai dance. I happened to be sat next to the two retirees – I suspect placed there by the Principal to be seen, and I watched as all kinds of people came up to the two teachers. Ex-students were there, and again I suspect that many adults who paid tribute were also ex-students and had made time to come back and pay respect.
I had lunch, the photos were still happening, and went home. I would hate to have to do that too often – tedious. But the teachers had something to remember. However genuine this display of community respect was it at least had the appearance of respect for a person who was important to the community and parents – a year 6 and year 4 primary school teacher.
I want to compare this with long-serving teachers in the UK who I had worked with. It was in two different schools, the three teachers had “risen” to Deputy Head, and had worked hard for their secondary schools. There were announcements in assembly, and the students were polite. Staff associations organised leaving dos, and more of an effort was put in for these people – and that was it. No parental involvement, no community involvement, the students did little. When I watched what this small village school and its community did for these two retirees and compared it with the lack of respect shown the long-serving Deputy Heads I had worked with, I just felt anger.
Despite all the politics surrounding education teachers are community lynchpins, these people are community elders, and our western communities are deeply lacking in their respect.
The article has a teacher recommending teachers increase online profiles, what do the parents give back for this? I do not blame parents it is the escapist ethos that is manipulated around teachers – as well as the pressure placed on parents’ time. But whilst I don’t blame the parents shouldn’t they be ashamed by comparison with this small farming community? Shouldn’t the communities? Parents, teachers and students should be working together despite the politics that intentionally divides them.