Male teacher makes a difference in West Indies

by Petrina Francis - Jamaica, West Indies

With the absence of men in most households in Jamaica, Kayson Jones said a male teacher was very important in his mentoring process.

"I find that the children (boys) are excited to have a male role model, someone they can talk to, someone who look like them, someone who smell like them," said the educator.

Jones was accustomed to wearing light-coloured clothing to school. However, he avoids wearing them now.

"(Because) as soon as I enter the school, they run to me and grab me," said Jones.

The guidance counsellor said there are days when his energy is depleted and this makes him feel that he has failed his boys because there is much more that he could do for them.

He disclosed that there are some with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among other learning conditions.

"You find that when their levels are high and I can't match them, they feel that the energetic sir can't give them all of that excitement, which leads them to be inattentive and disruptive," Jones explained.

He said the students are highly respectful of him. "If they are saying certain things and they see me coming they will say. 'Sir coming', and the conversation would end," said Jones.

Calling from God

A graduate of the Jamaica Theological Seminary and the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, Jones said his decision to enter the classroom was a calling from God.

"I found that with my background in church, where persons looked up to me for advice, I wanted to do counselling professionally," he said.

Jones enjoys working with his female colleagues.

"I think because I am the only male, it's a positive and everybody is trying to get a piece of sir, they are very co-operative," he told The Sunday Gleaner with a smile.

Jones wants the Ministry of Education to embark on an initiative to recruit more men to the classroom.

"Boys need to know that education is not only for females and they are not 'sissies' if they are bright," Jones said.

He added: "We have to look at how we are going to motivate more men to get involved in education," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Robert Lewis, geography and music teacher at St Jago High School in St Catherine, has been teaching for 12 years and would have it no other way.

"There is a serious problem with boys in the classroom. I may not be able to help all but I can make a difference in the lives of some," Lewis told The Sunday Gleaner.

Lewis said he was introduced to teaching by a friend. His initial reaction he said was 'not for love or money'.

However, after completing his teaching practice, he decided the classroom was the place for him to make a difference in the lives of students.

Lewis said most men stay away from the classroom because of economical factors and the fact that there is not much scope for growth.

Doran Dixon, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association agreed that more men are needed in the classroom.

"Female teachers do an extraordinary job but the kind of socialisation they get from the male teacher is different," said Dixon.

He added: "Boys need male role models or father figures as it helps some of the negative things in the classroom."

Male teachers spread thin

Of 363 teachers employed to infant schools, only three are men.

At the primary level, 943 men are employed compared to 7,236 women.

St Catherine, which falls into the Ministry of Education's largest region - six - has the most male teachers at the primary level.

At the secondary level, 10,364 teachers are employed. Of this total, 3,143 are men.

St Andrew comes out on top with the most male teachers - 587 at the secondary level.

Hanover has 87 males, compared to 218 female educators at the secondary level.

At the technical level, there are 414 males, compared to 756 female teachers.

St Catherine, which has two technical schools, has the most male teachers (69).

Source: Ministry of Education Statistics Unit

petrina.francis@gleanerjm.com

May 24, 2009

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