***Editor’s Note: We are pleased to feature a Viewpoint from Kaisha Morrison, who is a primary school teacher. She graduated from UCCI in 2016 with a Primary Education degree and began teaching in August 2017. (This post originally appeared on her website Education Unite Cayman.)***
I have been quite hesitant about composing a post on the marginalization of Caymanian teachers, but the topic becomes more pressing with each passing day. I want to state that this piece is based on my personal experiences as well as my observations.
First off, the narrative of few Caymanians expressing interest in becoming teachers has been around for a long time. I distinctly remember these conversations as a child. I almost went to law school because “teaching was deemed as a field that no well thinking person should enter into considering all the negativity.”
I am happy I took a leap of faith and here I am today, enjoying some success in the field. If I didn’t highlight the blessings of being a teacher in past, I want to take the time to do so now. There are blessings associated with the teaching profession, it’s just that they are buried deeply and one must overcome a lot of insecurities and hurdles before seeing the blessings. I shared about the blessings in this post, Teaching is a Great Profession.
The Marginalization of Caymanian Teachers
Now on to the matter at hand. My statements may be relative, but I stand firm on my experiences. I know you are wondering why I believe Caymanian teachers are marginalized. I will list a few reasons.
1. The Hiring of Locally-Educated Caymanian Teachers: There is definitely a disconnect between the local teacher training program and the hiring of Caymanian teachers. I spent 5 years in the teacher education program, 4 years on island and 1 year as an exchange student through the same program. Graduation came and I was elated because, “it was time to get my own class…not!” This was the moment that I was informed that I needed to be an Assistant Teacher yet my colleagues who returned from overseas with the same degree were given their own classes. Suspicious isn’t it? 🤨 It was also the limited explanation provided “oh you just need to be mentored.” I am still looking for the “mentor.”
2. The Local Teacher Education Program: The program was hell in a nutshell. I started this program twice. 2013 was my official year to start the teacher program. However, I walked into the classroom and it was as if the professor wanted me to feel that I was too young to study teaching so the exchange opportunity came and I left. I returned in 2014 and was told the credits earned could not be transferred in so I started from scratch.
I don’t want to say I didn’t learn much, but the program did not prepare me enough to be a teacher. I guess that explains the need for one more year of teacher training or “mentorship.” Someone was on to something. To top it off, I felt demotivated throughout the program as I was still made to feel that I was not good enough to be a teacher. Just so you know, the Caymanian and Jamaican in me spoke out because ‘nobodeh wah going kill my dreams. Nobody couldn’t stop mi dream.’ I know one thing, someone needs to look into the prejudicial biases of this program (hint-hint). I am available for speaking engagements on the matter. 😉
3. Life as a Caymanian Teacher: This is the title because I am not going to lie, I get treated differently when I highlight that I am a Caymanian teacher. Life is indeed different for the Caymanian Teacher. How do I know? How is the treatment different? ‘Ahh…lemme tell yuh,’ if I use my ‘Jamaican’ side everything is good. “Yes, Miss Morrison is Jamaican, she knows a thing or two.” Miss Morrison as the Caymanian teacher now, “she doesn’t know much…let’s bombard her.” If I act normal you know a speaky-spokey vibe, the parents mainly will spend all year trying to figure my nationality and judge whether I am “good enough.”
I mentioned those examples to make a point, Caymanian teachers from my point of view are barely supported. It’s as though we are seen as threats of taking everyone’s jobs, teachers and administrators included so it feels twice as hard to teach. I have received comments of this nature to my face.
I also went through the test for four whole school years. Four years of individuals assessing and reassessing whether I am good at teaching and no need to brag, but I am ‘theeee’ person where academics is concerned and I have no doubt in my conceptual understanding of any topic or tasks. While going through the ‘tests,’ I observe individuals who aren’t capable of doing the simplest tasks walk around scotch free, some even bragged about not writing lesson plans or tracking data.
Tell me, should the marginalization of Caymanian teachers continue? I understand if there is a performance management system in place, but this should not apply to Caymanian teachers only under the guise of improving the Caymanian while everyone else does the bare minimum. This practice only force the willing Caymanians to leave education.
Thank you for reading. I have much more to say and will follow-up in the future.