Held annually on October 5 since 1994, World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions. The Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997 to complement the 1966 Recommendation by covering teaching and research personnel in higher education. https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/worldteachersday
Today, October 5 is World Teachers’ Day. The theme for this year is Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.
In the time of pandemic teachers have had to adapt to teaching virtually, upgrade their skills, adopt flexible hours to accommodate pupils and their parents, hone their teaching methods and better manage work-life balance. It is a time of challenge and teachers are doing what they can to ensure education continues.
Tamana RC teacher Curvin Marquis had bought an LTE WiFi box to have internet but it stopped working in March. This was the month education institutions were closed due to COVID-19.
To keep connected with his 15 Standard Two pupils he used the school internet, when it was available. His home is located on the Cumuto Main Road, 1.25 miles from the school. Other times he drove to a friend’s home 2.5 miles away or more than eight miles to his sister’s home in Brazil Village.
During the rainy season connectivity in Tamana has been impacted.
“We started to realise once it has rain, a good shower, electricity goes you have to hold out sometimes a few hours for T&TEC (TT Electricity Commission) to come and check it …then we may get it back within a few hours; sometimes when it has heavy thunder, for some reason it [electricity] will trip off, no electricity…sharp lightning too it might possibly happen.”
Marquis used data on his phone to continue teaching but sometimes this connection too can be “shaky”.
He said the main change in teaching during the pandemic is delivery. While planning must still take place, face to face was easier. There are many things that now factor into planning and trying to deliver the curriculum.
“You have to try and get a time when everybody can get on. You have to hope that everybody has internet connectivity, you have to hope everybody will be able to use the device in order to get on and if they get on that they will be able to hear you and you will be able to hear them”. In addition to this, the teacher has to remember some pupils are slower than others.
WhatsApp is used to send coursework for the children and parents bought data to get the schoolwork on their phones. Marquis creates a PDF and used Bluetooth to send the work to his phone then relay it to the children. Their responses may sometimes come at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Virtual learning means demonstrations cannot be done as before. Marquis said, “part of teaching is that children not only see but they can touch and feel….”.
He said preparing for classes was having, “as best as possible”, a strategy to reach all the students and hopefully transmit the information. He explained that greater parental involvement is needed; they have to play an active role in teaching their children. “If the child does not get it, the parent has to do a little more. As the teacher you try and explain, and you try and explain also to the parent so they can firstly understand to teach the child”.
Choosing to teach
Marquis joined the teaching profession September 1997 at the age of 27. Born and bred in Tamana, he was active in different community groups e.g. 4H club, the community steel orchestra, sports and youth group in church. There were people in the community who suggested he would make a good teacher. He had his own ideas and at 22 decided he wanted to be a counsellor.
Marquis did stints as a clerk in a lawyer’s office and as a plumber. He is certified in plumbing. When the question of possible careers came up again his brother suggested teaching.
“I just decided I am going to get into teaching the idea behind the counselling was to help people…and the idea of teaching, I look at it as working with children and being able to help them from young so that when they get older, they would not be a problematic—they would not have as many issues”.
During his interview for teaching, he was forthright that teaching would be a “stepping stone”. Marquis, however, realised that he could be a teacher and also do counselling. “I love teaching… wherever I am I have to do the best that I can do; help them as much as possible because after me they also move on…and others will have to deal with them,” he said.
Marquis taught at St Benedict’s RC, Tunpauna for one year, and two years at Tamana RC. He subsequently went to the Valsayn Teachers’ College for two years. After training he was posted at Tamana RC. He obtained a certificate in drama in 2005 and Bachelor of Educator Degree in 2013.
Marquis, 50 years, has chosen to remain teaching in his community. He lives with and cares for his 91-year-old uncle who is blind; his mother, 73 years, lives nearby. “I am able to be close to them to help out and assist and do whatever they need.” Marquis is familiar with some parents because they are former pupils or were his peers at secondary school. “I am a member of the community, in terms of what is happening now what the parents are experiencing, I can say I know this firsthand. Some of them when they had no internet in the area, I was able to say I know about that too.” During holidays and weekends, he can see students from school and maintain contact. They are mindful of their behaviour and words when “Sir” is around.
Marquis feels good when he hears of past pupils doing well in higher education or employment. “One of the things I always loved is seeing the young people in the area either getting a good job, building a house, buying a car, basically being successful…I say that is one less to worry about and one more to build to help build the community.” It is also fulfilling to see his pupils actively involved in learning and “trying” very hard.
Principal of Tamana RC Randal Luces had this to say, “I commend the efforts of Mr Marquis as I know he is very passionate about his vocation. He lives in Carmichael Village and experiences challenges in internet connectivity.” He highlighted Marquis’ efforts to participate in every online staff meeting, driving to the home of another teacher to get WiFi.
“In the last term of school from April to July, he was able to use WhatsApp to assign work to his students. He listened to his students read using voice notes. I am happy to have him on the Tamana RC Team.” He commended the other teachers on staff, who though having fewer challenges have supported each other, “each one help one”.
“I commend them all for their devotion to duty and commitment to Catholic Education,” Luces said.