Teachers, do your part in inculcating respect

Teacher Valerie Tan conducting a maths lesson with a Primary 1 class in Northoaks Primary School.
Teacher Valerie Tan conducting a maths lesson with a Primary 1 class in Northoaks Primary School. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

I found Madam Evelyn Chan Wai Yee's letter ("Respect teachers - they shape our kids' future"; last Wednesday) to be food for thought, as she lamented the loss of respect for teachers and the adversarial attitude of some parents.

The teaching profession is still struggling with the image of its adherents brandishing red pens and crossing out students' work with them.

We must also realise that many present-day teachers are trained in last century's teaching pedagogies.

They are often ill equipped to engage with millennials and the increasing number of at-risk youth caused by changing values, morals and familial structures of our modern society.

Often, the relationship becomes confrontational when the expectations of the parents, the students' performance and the entrenched judgmental attitude of the teachers turn into an explosive mix of misunderstanding.

In some schools, principals fail to adequately respond to the problem by being overly protective and dismissing complaints against their teachers as baseless or as exaggeration.

As the disgruntled parents and students feel belittled, the more IT-savvy parents resort to using social media and other avenues, as described by Madam Chan, to vent their frustrations and make their grievances publicly known.

Perhaps it is time that teachers themselves be exemplary models of respectful behaviour.

Teachers should display respectful and non-abusive behaviour when communicating with less educated parents and non-teaching staff, such as school cleaners or canteen staff, in front of their students.

As a community welfare worker, I am a strong believer of the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child. Perhaps it is time for parents, teachers and students to realise that we all belong to the same village.

Osman V. P. Mohamed

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Teachers, do your part in inculcating respect'. Print Edition | Subscribe