Teachers’ Day set to be glum
Recently, I have seen some local teachers on online teacher forums calling for either a day off on Teachers’ Day — which marks Confucius’ birthday on Sept. 28 — or the cancelation of the day’s celebrations. As a junior-high schoolteacher, I share the same feeling. Compared with workers, who get a day off on International Workers’ Day, I do not dare to hope that teachers could enjoy a day off on Teachers’ Day, but the Teachers’ Day celebrations at every school are not necessarily desirable.
The school administration plans Teachers’ Day celebrations with good intentions, but I am always left cold when I receive the mandatory “thank you” cards my school tells students to write.
Perhaps the Ministry of Education can conduct a survey of grassroots teachers to create a “happiness index” and find the source of their unhappiness. Teachers can only have a happy Teachers’ Day if the ministry can improve the manifold problems that we have.
The reason that “supply teachers” in both elementary and high schools are unhappy are obvious. They get less pay than their permanent counterparts, for the same amount of work, making them feel like second-class citizens and “contract workers” who can be dumped at any time.
Ironically, the government is willing to spend a lot of money hiring foreign English-language teachers to promote bilingual education, but has ignored the appointment period and salary system of supply teachers for many years.
Why are regular teachers also unhappy? Despite the ministry’s promises to reduce administrative work, teachers who hold administrative posts concurrently are kept extremely busy, day in, day out. Since the new semester began late last month, they need to hold various meetings one after another, on issues such as traffic safety, gender equality, family education, career education, work reports and student counseling of “homeroom teachers,” parent-teacher meetings, disaster prevention initiatives, lunch supply and talent cultivation.
Not to affect teaching, teachers have little choice but to hold meetings during their lunch breaks, so there is no way for them to rest. Although these routine meetings are too numerous to count, discussion is not really needed: teachers just need to sign in, read reports and serve as the background of some group photographs at these pointless events. As more issues get integrated into school education, it is difficult to know what the ministry means by “administrative workload reduction.”
For homeroom teachers, the scope of responsibility is wider than the Pacific Ocean. When their students misbehave in other teachers’ classes, they need to assist others to manage the classes. They also frequently receive messages in their classes’ online chat groups from parents, who even ask them for help when children do not return home on time after school.
When their students get low scores, homeroom teachers are responsible for boosting their academic performance. Even though some parents do not care whether their children study at home, teachers cannot cross the line of “positive discipline” drawn by the ministry. If a student gets low scores, a teacher cannot tutor them during breaks or lunch hours as they need to take a rest.
I would like to ask our top education officials who make the policies with a top-down approach: When else can teachers provide remedial education to low-performing students?
Experts claim the problem lies in teachers’ professionalism, saying that “there is no such thing as a student who cannot learn, only teachers who cannot teach.”
I would like to invite the so-called experts to teach at either remote schools or “non-remote schools with little educational resources,” where they can demonstrate their class management and teaching skills over long periods. Only then will they know how laughable their claim is, how depressing the teaching environment is, and why more and more teachers have been seeking mental health treatment.
Ahead of Teachers’ Day, are you happy, my fellow teachers?
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