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“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”

By Gustavo Ramirez, Guidance Counselor / Education Consultant
Sadly, very sadly, the definitions of good and bad in our education system today have totally been lost, confused, and/or ignored. A good teacher is one who allows a student to do as he/she pleases in the classroom with minimum interruption. A good teacher is one who simply expels any difficult/misbehaving student from the classroom – “so the others can learn”. On the other hand, a bad teacher is one who does respond to each and every misbehaving incident by any difficult/misbehaving student in the classroom.  The response by that teacher is usually more and louder yelling and screaming than the student. As totally inexplicable and unacceptable as those definitions of good and bad are, the outcome beyond any spec of doubt is: plain ugly!

Despite such plain ugly situations that exist today in so many of our schools (primary and secondary) throughout Belize, new teachers continue to join the ranks of educators each year, and veteran teachers return each year. Sadly, very sadly, there continues to be so much to complain about by underpaid, overworked, and frustrated teachers throughout the entire education system in Belize. Even if that is why (explicable) good and bad have become confused, lost, and/or ignored in our education system – is it (ugly) acceptable? By whom?

Teaching is one of the most wonderful professions in the world! No one will ever convince me otherwise. I have enjoyed teaching in public, private, continuation, and charter schools (Belize and USA) since 1978.  No amount of money in the world could ever replace the exhilaration a teacher feels when he/she sees students succeed because of the quality of his/her teaching. Sadly, very sadly, no matter how formidable any teacher’s inner resources (academic qualifications and training, creativity and love of teaching) they simply will not sustain themselves indefinitely. Teachers, just like everyone else, are human. How then do we design and sustain an education system that continually energizes and engages the passion for learning – of students and teachers?

Before we even attempt to answer this question, we must first answer a basic one: Why do students come to school every day? Students come to school every day, whether voluntarily or not, to LEARN. The most academically qualified teacher may teach the greatest lesson he/she ever taught, but it is meaningless if the students do not learn from that lesson! Why? Genuine and true education is, and will always be, about successful “learning”, not teaching.   

No teacher can ever learn for his/her students, nor can he/she force them to learn. Why? Learning does not occur unless it is sparked by the learner’s (student’s) own ardent interest and curiosity. Consequently, teaching is NOT merely presenting new information (any subject area) to students, but much more about MOTIVATING students to want to learn. Teachers, no matter how deep their passion for wanting to make schools work, cannot do it alone. Teachers will only make it (education system) work when they motivate students in each class to want to learn.
Excuses for failure(s) in our education system, classrooms throughout Belize, exist by the dozens: parents are not parenting; students bring stress from home to school; conflicting messages from the media (Television, Facebook, Chat Rooms); underpaid and overworked teachers etc. The list goes on and on.  So, do we continue to complain angrily and loudly (to each other, to school administrators, to parents and students) and remain super frustrated by the good, the bad, and the ugly in our education system in Belize? I am a Belizean guidance counselor and teacher, and I do CARE about successfully educating our young people. I will continue to try to motivate students and teachers – one at a time.

Author’s Note:
These articles are in no way, whatsoever, intended to be comprehensive or complete.  They are written and contributed in an effort to provide a “starting point” for valuable (and intriguing) discussion.  Why discuss/ review students’ learning capabilities and our current methods of trying to educate them? Educators, students, parents, and our community can learn from one another.  I have the greatest respect and admiration for all educators, especially in Belize!

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