Teachers need to balance their workload with family time and determine what matters the most.
Which means that if they are not feeling well, they must be honest enough to leave the classroom and take time to recover.
The point was made by the Director of Catholic Education, Aeau Chris Hazelman, during the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture’s Conference, held at the beginning of the week.
He was among a host of speakers during the two-day conference attended by Principals, teachers and administrators from Upolu, Savai’i, Manono and Apolima.
According to Aeau, teachers need to look after themselves first and foremost because they cannot be expected to teach bright students when they are not well themselves.
“For the teachers alone, the job absorbs them so much,” Aeau said. “They spend more time in school, preparing for school work and school activities even coaching a rugby team and then it ends up they have less time at home.
“Often they have so many problems within the work and then they get blamed because of the things that happen. When they go home, they take this load with them.
“When they have family problems, this adds more on their plate and it makes it worse.”
Aeau, who is also the Pro Chancellor for the National University of Samoa, said it would be interesting to find out how many teachers actually reach 70 years.
He said studies done in other countries have indicated that most teachers die from stress. A few of them reach 70.
“Some turn to food, some turned to alcohol to try and ease the stress and that is the main issue,” he said. “As teachers we have to come to realise what is most important, what is our priority.”
Although teaching is his passion, Aeau said it is not what defines him.
“I love my job but it’s not my life because if something happens to me, nobody in the Ministry or the church or all these teachers will take care of me.
“The job will still be there but the relationship with the people that are supposed to be important to us will no longer be there.”
“This is why it’s important to balance your professional job and your own life.
“My point to the teachers is this; is your own life is more important or is our job more important?
“Teaching is what we are made to do but our parents, our partners and our children are the most important people in our lives,” he said.
“We have been focusing on the children, results and literacy but we never really focus on the health of our teachers, the frustration that we have and that’s why I made a point when I first started.
“People say that ‘teaching is one of the noblest jobs’ and yet we have been treated as peasants.”
Aeau encouraged teachers to strike a balance so that they can teach the students better. He reminded them that healthier teachers produce brighter students and that there is a great need for teachers to look after themselves.