“The Physical Education curriculum, based at the Learning Resource Centre in McBean, Couva, has been headed by a woman and staffed heavily by women, generally trained teachers with years of experience teaching in schools. They are largely responsible for making Physical Education an examinable CXC subject and efforts to have a specialist Phys. Ed. teacher in primary schools. They have continuously developed training programmes and built links with leading academies at home and abroad. They organise and run the National Primary and Secondary School Track and Field Championships.
“They also organise swimming programmes. Any certified PE teacher can teach people to swim.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which is a response to a statement by West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron blaming women teachers for the state of West Indies cricket, was submitted to Wired868 by Rae Samuel:
Dave Cameron must be either daft or dreaming of rivalling Donald Trump in terms of igniting fury with crass statements or not-too-bright comebacks to some of our admittedly not-too-bright cricketers.
Let me say at the outset that I do not blame Cameron for the state of West Indian cricket. West Indian cricket hit the bobsleds decades ago; it is simply that we are just realising how far down we have come. But it is all too easy to go down the blame-Cameron road, just as it is all too easy to forget that before Mr Trump, there were Presidents Bush I and II, Obama and Clinton and Reagan.
Cameron is reported to have said that there are too many female Physical Education teachers in Jamaica. Maybe, maybe not. The merit of such a statement would depend on what was their programme, its objectives and how the programme was carried out. Too many or not enough is never per se a meaningful numbers games.
Do we have too many or not enough male, female or other PE teachers in this country? Again it is not a straight zero sum game. We would have to factor in the culture of our country, where education is results-oriented rather than focused on human development.
I have had direct experience of 8-9-year-olds opting out of free sporting programmes because of Saturday morning lessons. There is a ‘prestige’ school north east of Victoria Square where the young girls play on a concrete strip in the yard. Of what use would a PE teacher be in that school?
In my various incarnations, I have been a trained physical education teacher, certified coach and I have managed sport programmes for national federations, state companies and trade unions. I state this to indicate that what follows is based on empirical evidence spanning just about three decades, not to pursue agenda or promote profile. The programmes are still running, proof, I submit, that our team/s did its/their work well.
In the case of the Butler Classics, where I spent nearly two decades, the OWTU Labour Day running and walking races, the finish line was managed by a volunteer group of female PE teachers, assisted by the sister comrades from the OWTU’s Central Office. This continued after my departure from the Co-ordinating Committee. As the person with overall responsibility for the event on the day, I would leave Paramount Building last, after the start and arrive about an hour later. Before the start of the march, Technical Director Winston Lewis, now deceased, would be handed the results and the Charlie King Junction was clear. Some of these sisters, under the leadership of the late Fitzroy Gittens, also handled the 5k for the younger ones
The Physical Education curriculum, based at the Learning Resource Centre in McBean, Couva, has been headed by a woman and staffed heavily by women, generally trained teachers with years of experience teaching in schools. They are largely responsible for making Physical Education an examinable CXC subject and efforts to have a specialist Phys. Ed. teacher in primary schools. They have continuously developed training programmes and built links with leading academies at home and abroad. They organise and run the National Primary and Secondary School Track and Field Championships.
They also organise swimming programmes. Any certified PE teacher can teach people to swim; I have taught 11-15- and 55-year-olds. (Okay, okay, you’re right; the latter had left school a little while.)
The NGC-owned and -run “Right on Track” Programme trained 84 Phys. Ed. teachers to develop the fundamentals of track and field in schools and communities; the majority were women. Each was trained under the IAAF Coaching Education and Certification System, commonly referred to as Level 1. As co-ordinator of the programme for 18 years, I can attest to their invaluable dedication and commitment, as they worked throughout Trinidad and Tobago, from Palatuvier to Cedros from Toco to Guayaguayare.
Salaries do not adequately cover such contribution to national development. These same ladies were involved in coaching and training as well as organising zonal, district and national championships at both primary and secondary school levels.
Let me digress for a moment here to make an important observation: like the air and sea bridge services to Tobago, track and field seems to have collapsed. We are hearing every week about the closure/unavailability of stadia and the consequent cancellation of meets. I am of the view that much of the blame must lie with the governing body, which is showing a remarkable inability to represent and defend the interests of athletes and coaches. The moat in our eyes?
Returning to the PE teachers, it has to be said that, without their invaluable assistance, the “summer” programmes run by the Ministry of Sport up to 2012 would have flopped. There are 12 teams spread out all over Trinidad and it was the same story. Each team had a chief coach, which gave me my technical and administrative staff; five were headed by women
There is an important distinction to make but which our woefully—not to say wilfully—ignorant administrators have for decades not made: A PE teacher, properly defined, is not an ex-player of some sport. An ex-player, without the training, will consistently fail as a PE teacher.
A PE teacher goes about teaching the skills—running, jumping, throwing—of physical activity and the related skills—co-ordination, balance, agility. (S)he also teaches anatomy and physiology. Many of our graduates who returned home after being trained as coaches at foreign universities have failed to cut it as PE teachers.
At best, they turned the PE programmes into specialist sports activities—football, cricket, hockey, tennis—based on personal preference. Having worked closely with the original Cuban sporting brigade in 2005, I learned that each member of that group had a first degree in Physical Education. They were thus able to work in schools and communities as well as with track and field clubs.
Let me end by mentioning a handful of the sister teachers who have gone on to greener pastures as it were. There’s Irma Riley, a fixture on the Caribbean Union of Teachers’ Games team as the Trinidad/Tobago chief coach for decades. Then there is Susan Pierre, R.O.T coach- turned-manager of the National Women’s Volleyball team. And finally, we have Dr Themesa Neckles, a former PE teacher and R.O.T coach who is now a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield University in England.
So, Mr Cameron, later for you.