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Performing Arts teaching can make a difference

Monday, March 7, 2016

The tragedy of lawlessness that has found its way into so many of our secondary schools is cause for deep concern, and I believe we must not only seek to find immediate solutions, but we must seek to find long term solutions in order to save the rest of our student population in the years to come. If we do not do this, the reality is that the situation will continue to get worse and more of our young people will be lost. 

In the ’70s, before guidance officers were trained and appointed to schools, the ministry had a programme where each year, two or three teachers were selected to be trained in guidance and counselling for a year at UWI. The teachers had a day off each week to attend lectures, and classes were also held for some weeks during the vacation. 

At the end of that year the teachers who were trained, continued to teach their individual subjects, but were now open to being more sensitive in the way they handled their students, especially the “difficult” ones. While the onus is not on the teacher alone to curb violence and indiscipline, a teacher who is not trained to handle “difficult” students, can escalate the problem. 

Some teachers in their frustration,  very often write off a difficult student and often uses insults to try to have a sense of control in the classroom. This makes the situation worse, of course. 

The time has come for every teacher at secondary school level to have an in-service counselling course. Even though a guidance officer is assigned to the schools, a student is referred to the counsellor when he/she is identified as being troubled, or a source of trouble. 

While I am not saying that there should not be permanent guidance officers in schools, I do believe that if the subject teachers are also trained in counselling, a “difficult” student is more likely to be influenced in a positive way by a teacher who he is in contact with daily, who he feels cares, and who with training, can guide him in a positive way.

I also feel that the ministry must, as a matter of urgency, seek to appoint in our schools, teachers in the Creative and Performing Arts. I was reading in one if the newspapers, the disappointment of patrons who attended the Junior Music Festival in Port-of-Spain. 

In the different categories of Secondary School choirs, St Joseph’s Convent, of Port-of-Spain and of St Joseph, were the only choirs to compete. Those who have been attending the Music Festival both in the north and south, will tell you that even though the primary schools are well represented at the festival, in the secondary school classes, the competitors are in the main from the so called “prestige” denominational schools.

Most of our government secondary schools are without music teachers. Being part of a school choir, a school’s steelband, or a school’s orchestra, is a bonding experience, and the hours of practice would take our young people off the streets. 

As a matter of urgency, I implore the Ministry of Education, to place teachers of the Visual Arts, Theatre, Music and Dance in all our schools. Some of our so-called “monsters” in our schools, while academically weak, may have been brilliant actors, painters, musicians or dancers if they had had that option. In addition, young people who are gifted in the arts often bond in a special way with their teacher of the arts. If these teachers are not available locally, then import them! 

I pray that my suggestions will at least be considered by those in authority.

H Barnes
Guillen Drive, Gulf View


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