Talk is cheap.
Maybe that explains why professional athletes and other entertainers earn so much more than the people we trust to teach our children.
Yeah, I hear you; I’ve been down this road before, but I think how our society views teachers – and how they see themselves – is so important that my concerns bear repeating… and I’m happy to say I witnessed a few things last weekend that give me a great deal of hope for the future.
When my wife, first daughter and I moved here 16 years ago, the main attraction was that we would be able to make frequent shopping trips to Bulawayo – remember those days? – and we had no expectation of hanging around for more than a few years. When our kids started going to school, however, our perception of Botswana’s second city improved a great deal, and that’s when we decided to become permanent residents.
Our kids learned as much outside the classroom as they did inside. There were classmates from China, Argentina, England the United States, Jamaica, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and at least 10 African countries; there were Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians; they were brown, black, yellow and white…and they all got along just fine.
It was a great start and my kids learned that we are all basically the same… but that doesn’t mean what goes on during class time, or what kind of people are doing the teaching, isn’t important.
Anyway, I spent last Sunday swimming in a dam, cycling and running in the mid-day sun at a game reserve and golf course 40 kilometres north of Francistown with the other 116 intellectually suspect people who entered the first annual Tantebane Triathlon. It was bloody hard work, but it was also good fun for the participants and for friends and family who came out to watch.
What really has me excited, however, is the fact that the event was organised and staged by a local teacher and that several of his John Mackenzie colleagues supported and took part in the event – one of them was even kind enough to entertain the crowd with a spectacular wipe out at the end of his prize winning ride.
You see I strongly believe that the best way to teach is by example, so when an already busy teacher like Kelby Murray takes the time to organize what may well become a major fund-raiser for local charities and then sets up the tables and tent, takes part in the race and even cleans up afterwards, that has to be a good thing.
Murray’s actions and the fact that he expects a lot from himself are having a positive impact on a great many kids. The same can be said for other teachers who dedicate part of their free time to community service.
The one thing that has me worried, however, is the pay structure in our school system. Good teachers would probably make good parents and if they like kids they might well want to have more than one or two children of their own. That takes money, and under the existing system the way for teachers to make more money is to move into administration… and that means they have to move out of the classroom.
Talk may be cheap but teachers who back up their classroom pitch with a solid example of what it takes to be decent civic-minded adults are worth their weight in gold and I think more of an effort should be made to keep them where they do the most good.