No more struggles and disrespect
Migrating teacher prepares for a better life with family in the US
Frustrated by the daily struggles to make ends meet and the uncertainties that surround the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) bill, Castella Bennett*, a literary specialist with more than 18 years of experience, is now preparing to leave the island...
Frustrated by the daily struggles to make ends meet and the uncertainties that surround the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) bill, Castella Bennett*, a literary specialist with more than 18 years of experience, is now preparing to leave the island with her family to take up a teaching appointment in the United States.
It will be Bennett’s second trip to the North American country to work, but her maiden stint, which saw her returning to Jamaica because of personal reasons, has prepared her for this permanent move.
“The decision to go and work abroad was basically because of the economics because it is a gross disrespect what we are paid, and right now, YouTubers are making more money than we are. My pay was not good, and the only support given by the Government is about $5,000 as a clothing allowance, which took my salary to around $180,000 per month before tax,” Bennett told The Sunday Gleaner.
“Paying rent, maintaining a family, then going to school to deal with disrespectful parents and sometimes faced with vindictive leadership can be a lot for one person,” she added.
The educator admitted that at times, her frustrations were taken out on her family.
“On occasions, my hubby had to remind me that I am not at school, which is embarrassing, and when you access your personal growth, you will find that each year, it becomes more difficult to meet your goals, so I left, because I want better,” she said.
Bennett was hired for her overseas job through the recruitment firm Educational Partners International and taught literacy at a middle school in the coastal US Southeast.
“The first year can be rough, but it will work out fine if you are focused because you have all the necessary support in resources that you will need,” she said. “Sometimes I regret that I did not make the sacrifice and stay because I would have been doing my master’s by now and be settled.”
As a literary specialist, Bennett struggles to find basic resources to carry out her duties in Jamaica, but in America, US$500 is deposited into the school’s account for her use, when necessary. She receives another US$1,000 in the middle of the school year to order whatever is needed in the classroom.
“That would never happen in Jamaica,” she said, laughing.
During her first stint, Bennett earned a basic salary of US$3,400 monthly, with an additional US$1,000 per month for after-school lessons. She also participated in a project teaching home-bound students, such as pregnant teens. For this, she was paid for mileage and another US$1,200 per month.
She pays for housing, utilities, insurance and the respective taxes.
Bennett says working under the JTC regime, which has caused a significant level of anxiety among educators, will only create more stress in an already-fragile education system.
“After giving most of my work life to the education sector in my own country, it is sad that I have to be making such a choice, and that is why I believe politicians must work in their communities and allow technocrats to run ministries,” she said. “But, at least, now I will have the assurance of job security in the US.”
Education Minister Fayval Williams recently said that some 964 specialist teachers were available for employment in the public sector to stem the loss of some of the more experienced teachers locally.
There are concerns that a teacher shortage crisis could see the public education system being short of hundreds – if not thousands – of teachers when the academic year kicks off next week.
[*Name changed to protect identity.]