The majority of the country was stunned last Thursday when an incident in which a Bishop’s High School (Tobago) student disrupted an online Zoom class after sharing porn during the session was highlighted.
The incident naturally disturbed both the teacher and other students in the class and eventually prompted the suspension of the math session.
The incident was so grave that it prompted Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy to take to Facebook to vent her disgust at the situation, one of her daughters having been involved in the incident and thus open to the vulgarity.
At the time, the minister may have been reacting from a concerned parent’s perspective. And why should she not have acted in such a fashion? Coming from a public figure and Government minister, however, her response took on greater significance since it is likely to prompt the kind of action which a complaint from an average citizen would not.
Tobagonians were particularly disturbed at the incident, especially since it involved one of the most successful educational institutions on the island. That very day, a similar online class conducted by a Signal Hill Secondary teacher was also disrupted by a student exhibiting disrespectful behaviour.
The fact is that this issue is not unique to these two institutions and this and other types of disruptive behaviour has been plaguing teachers attempting to administer online classes to students at all levels during the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The administration of online classes presents a unique experience for teachers who, prior to now, have been accustomed to teaching in a physical classroom setting. It is what prompted the T&T Unified Teachers Association’s call for teachers to be given some training on online teaching protocols before the process actually began. The sudden nature of the COVID-19 measures did not allow for this process so we must now deal with the fallout.
Unfortunately, these incidents stem from the overall issue of indiscipline within the current school system – a problem that must be addressed by all the stakeholders in the education system. Indeed, until parents, teachers, students and all the stakeholders who are part of the process take a more active role in instilling proper discipline within students and for dealing with acts of indiscipline, we will probably never rid ourselves of such behaviour.
On that note, a blame game developed during the discussion on the Bishop’s High School incident, with the teachers blaming the parents and parents, in turn, blaming teachers on the issue of lack of discipline that led to the behaviour. But all sides should bear that burden.
The reality is that all stakeholders have a role to play in ridding the education system of such disruptive behaviour. Hopefully, the Education Ministry will give Bishop’s High, Signal Hill and other schools with such issues the kind of support needed to rectify their issues so that the learning process can run smoothly during the continuing COVID-19 measures.