Guiding The New Teacher To Excel

The country’s academic year for basic and high schools begins in September. Schools have re-opened, and with it, new teachers from the Colleges of Education and some tertiary institutions have joined the teaching profession, and be consequently posted to schools and the colleges. As an old hand, I welcome them warmly into the field, and wish to discuss some of their expectations, fears and aspirations.

For the purpose of this write-up, we shall refer to these new teachers as beginners, or precisely, beginning teachers. This is because they have joined a group of colleagues, in (new) communities where their schools are located. They would also join the teacher associations, which, to some extent, would be responsible for their professional and social welfare.

Of the beginners, some could be freshers, others quite old, with experience as untrained teachers, while some have just switched careers. Naturally, all of them have high expectations of their employer.

THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND

The beginning Teacher should be issued an appointment letter, stipulating his status, terms and conditions of service, and a code of conduct and professional ethics, which deal with the dos and don’ts of the profession and their consequent sanctions. He must also join one of the teacher associations. Being a staff of the Ghana National Association of Teachers, GNAT, I recommend it for my young colleagues.

At the school, he/she should be given a register of attendance in which he/she would record the names of his/her pupils, a notebook in which he/she would prepare his/her daily/weekly notes, the necessary reference books, pens, pencils and chalk, teaching and learning materials. Should there be no teaching and learning materials, then he/she should prepare some him/herself.

The fresh teacher would be allocated a class, or made to teach the subject he/she is an expert in. He/she would be introduced to colleague staff members, the students or pupils. He may undergo an orientation, and be introduced to the chief and elders of the community and join a church/mosque. Where possible, he/she would look for accommodation at his duty station, live and form acquaintances with new people.

If a man, and a bachelor, he becomes the cynosure of the eyes of spinsters, and if a spinster, the chief, opinion leaders and all who trust themselves, may come up to try their luck. The advice here is, care, caution, tact and healthy communication and inter-personal skills.

In the classroom, the beginning teacher would come face-to-face with the actual strategies of teaching, the real skills of imparting knowledge, pedagogical approaches a bit different from the theories learnt in education classes, and even at teaching practice The young teacher should assert him/herself, prove his/her competence, and use technology in his/her delivery, where necessary.

Indeed he/she should be on top of his job, or open him/herself to ridicule and derision, from his pupils and students. In the face of all these, he/she may go through such unpleasant emotions as tension, frustration, anxiety and anger, especially when the required logistics with which to ply his trade are just not there. This is not the end; he may be assigned administrative tasks by his/her Head, learn to manage his class with tact, give and mark exercises, handle individual issues, and in some instances, deal with intimidating parents and even colleague staff.

The beginning teacher should be conscious of his choice, and mode of dressing. The women should avoid suggestive and provocative dressing, to ward off even bigger students and pupils who may venture to make advances, and embarrass them. Their conduct, lifestyles and communication skills should be acceptable, concise and intelligible, to portray their new look as sound professionals.

The young teacher’s life outside the classroom should be modest, and something to learn from. He/she should be discreet, and circumspect with his language and utterances, not very argumentative and verbose.

As much as possible, he/she should participate in activities of the community, as one of the demands of the Best Teacher Award Scheme. He/she should learn to live by the societal norms, be friendly with all, and should not look down upon the people, or compromise his own standards and etiquettes. If he cannot control his emotions or sexual desires, he should marry as early as possible, to save himself from embarrassment with his female pupils. The same goes for the females. Remember the ethics of the profession.

In times of crisis;

u The Head and staff must assist the young teacher. That’s why the young teacher has to develop good relations with colleagues,

u The Ghana Education Service – the employer,

u The teacher organization one belongs to – for our cause, the Ghana National Association of Teachers, GNAT,

u Parents – for cogent advice and direction.

THINGS TO GUARD AGAINST:

u Unnecessary and frivolous spending; it would send the young teacher into debts

u Borrowing, borrowing and borrowing! One could lose one’s esteem and become a laughing stock among colleagues, if one engaged in it

u Taking advantage of female pupils, if a man

u Accepting gifts, and free rent, if a woman. All manner of persons could approach you for love, and you may end up a second or third wife to the chief, ebusuapanyin, linguist, the landlord or a driver in town.

* Drinking excessively and in public. You may be a bad example, and the people and pupils would take you for granted and mock at you.

Young teachers, this is how far we can go with you. Be diligent and professional, take advantage of all opportunities and courses, upgrade and better yourself.

Aspire for higher heights, and remember you could become the next Director-General of Education, or the General Secretary of the teacher organization you belong to.

By Thomas Musah

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