A cup of tea in the staff room can help teachers bond and perform better
During my teaching career, I had the privilege of teaching in two colleges. One offered free tea to the teaching staff between 10.30 am and 11.00 am, while the other one did not. It can be argued that a simple thing like free tea for teachers cannot have a bearing on academic standards. Besides, in a college with a large teaching staff, it would be an additional cost to the running of the institution, which may be looking for ways to cut costs in the first place. Moreover, teachers can afford their own tea and should be proud to meet the cost. In the colleges that do not offer tea as a fringe benefit, the teachers source a cup of tea anywhere, either in a staff canteen or in the nearby centres. This hub will look at the advantages of a simple break and a cup of tea for teachers at the institution’s cost. One major advantage was that the teachers had no reason to walk out of the institution’s compound and probably be late for the next class. Below are 5 points in favour of a cup of tea in a common room.
· Every morning at tea time, the teachers had a chance to meet and inquire on each other’s health. A feeling of belonging to a family was fostered and it was not unusual to refer to each other as brothers and sisters. If a teacher missed for one day, it was noticed immediately. Teachers who had reason to be away from the institution made arrangements for a colleague to take care of their class.
Hardly any bonding took place in the institution that did not offer tea to the teaching staff. Some teachers walked out of their classrooms and disappeared and it was difficult for their colleagues to know if they had turned up at all. Some classes went unattended by truant teachers and sometimes the matter only came to the attention of the administration when the students complained.
· If a teacher had a problem with a student, the matter was casually raised at tea time and methods to solve the problem were explored. No teacher was therefore left to their own devices since by the end of tea break, a solution would have been found. Sometimes the problems involved the student’s parents as well, but no matter how complex the problem, it was never a serious issue for the teacher concerned. In situations where another teacher was able to handle the problem better, it was offloaded on the spot. It also happened that sometimes a teacher had a problem interpreting the requirements of the syllabus. This was easily sorted out by the veterans who ensured that new teachers were well apprenticed.
Students in the college where the teachers were free spirits were unruly to say the least. They wrote unsavoury things on the board, walked in and out of class and failed to hand in their projects. Any teacher who tried to reign in the situation was alone and it would not be long before they succumbed to the prevailing culture. If a teacher had a problem interpreting the requirements of the syllabus, he or she made their own individual effort to find out sometimes without getting the right information.
· At tea break, the teachers formed ad hoc committees to perform various duties such as preparing the exam timetable and an invigilation schedule. Allocation of duties were discussed so when invigilation schedules were finally out, no teacher would complain that he or she was not consulted. If an afternoon invigilation was not convenient for one teacher for example, a solution would be found by exchanging with a willing teacher. In any case, the bonding that had already taken place made it easy for any two teachers to solve such a problem without involving everybody.
In the college that did not have a paid tea break for the teachers, Invigilation time tables would just appear on notice boards and there would be no room to accommodate changes for inconvenienced teachers. Since the teachers had not bonded sufficiently, it was more difficult to find someone willing to take another’s place and there would also be quite some discontent. Besides, the teachers were difficult to find as they would only appear when necessary and disappear at the earliest opportunity.
Loyalty and work ethics
· Teachers who met daily during the tea break had better loyalty to the institution and to each other. Exam leaks were rare and if a paper was suspected to have leaked, the teachers cooperated to ensure that another one was set to replace it. Since the teachers were very free with each other, an exam cheat was likely to be caught and handed over for group action. They ensured that papers were marked on time and several teachers would meet to mark in the same room and offer each other some company. A teacher who marked slowly or was overwhelmed was more likely to get help.
In the institution where teachers had insufficient bonding, exam leakages were common, and sometimes it was suspected that a teacher had a hand in it. Some teachers did not mark papers on time, and usually no one could tell where to find them. Exam cheating was widespread and as you have guessed, the lone teacher who wanted to do something about it was at an awful disadvantage.
Smooth handing over
· Lastly when a teacher left for a job elsewhere, it was a sad affair in the college where a brotherhood existed. Usually a farewell would be organized and the teacher always felt it prudent to hand over their schemes and notes to their remaining colleagues who would usually take over classes until a replacement was found. The staff turnover was however low by comparison.
In the other college, departing teachers just left - no farewell, no handing over. The new teacher would have to find out from the students what they had covered or not covered in the syllabus or any other details. Needless to say, the students who probably knew that the new teacher had no way of verifying the truth would lie if it was to their advantage. While staff turnover was also low, most teachers had businesses that took them away from the classroom excessively.
Business managers will argue that all the problems experienced by the second institution can be corrected by good management. That is perfectly true. What is also true is that getting the teachers to bond sufficiently inculcates a brother’s keeper mentality and improves performance and accountability. Perhaps the inclusion of an annual team building programme besides the daily tea would move all institutions a notch higher in the delivery of excellent education. So as you consider what to do to motivate the teaching staff, think of a simple cup of tea or coffee as the first item on your list.
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