Mark Wignall

Mark Wignall

The viral clip of a teacher from Pembroke Hall High School, Kingston, Jamaica, is, first of all, more of a general review of the decay of Jamaican society from independence to now, than it is the teacher driven to the edge of schoolroom insanity.

In the 1960s, when a child misbehaved at school, the worst nightmare for that pupil was one’s parent being summoned to the school by the tech of the day—a telegram. Now, when a parent (usually the mother) is ­contacted by phone, it is often an enemy combatant who shows up, and the teacher’s safety cannot be ­guaranteed.

In the 1960s, we all watched the same TV station and there were ­actual sign-on and sign-off times. When ­people met on weekends, they actually talked to each other about the same TV shows, radio soap operas, Miss Cynthia’s surgery and, in the rural areas, the massive yam Tata Joe just dug.

The point is, people spoke to each other. Many went abroad in ­attempts to better their lives. But into the 1970s, although political tribalism approached its zenith, crazily enough, we still found the time to talk to each other. As time marched on, we had two TV stations then cable TV and the Internet in the 1990s, and eventually the cellphone.

Then, the warped piece of tech that was supposed to bring us closer to each other and in touch with our interests—social media. During the time from the 1980s to the present, teaching in our schools has followed the same pattern in classroom manage­ment without recognising it is social media that is dictating how many young people interact with each other in 2019.

At its core, social media possesses all the tools to advertise what is ­genuine and lawful. But in the vast majority of instances, social media pits us against each other as we try to occupy the fantasy land of the other person.

Children are constantly being caught up in the dregs of social media where gore and violence and bad behaviour are given first taste at the table.

Many people are of the view the teacher’s duty must first be ­protective of her life and limb when dire threats are coming from the rows of pupils facing her. We must bear in mind the person recording her could have been a pupil, which also means the ­management of cellphones in the school was somewhat relaxed.

Too many parents sit with each other with their eyes buried in their cellphones, probably on Facebook. The children are there somewhere in the house buried in Instagram. Many more of us need to be tuned in to a live human being close to us.

The vast majority of us do not have ready-made solutions to the teacher/­pupil engagement, but I certainly know it cannot be electric shocks ­applied to the worst-behaving children, as one reader suggested.

I can appreciate the minister of edu­cation trying to find the ­softest landing on the side of politics in this issue by wanting to gnaw on the teacher. The fact is, the minister cannot solve it. I’m not even sure that at this stage the prime minister can ­begin any new conversations like PJ ­Patterson’s 1990s chimera named “Values and Attitudes Campaign”.

So, where do we go from here? We know many of our at-risk children live more of their lives inside social media than others. How do those making ­education policy mine the depths of social media in an attempt to meet those children on their turf.

For understanding. For developing the new rules of engagement.

—Courtesy Jamaica Gleaner


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