No texts and mails after 5pm for these teachers

No texts and mails after 5pm for these teachers
West Spring Primary School principal Jacinta Lim.
PHOTO: The New Paper

At West Spring Primary School, teachers are banned from replying to work-related e-mails and texts before 7.30am and after 5pm on weekdays, as well as over the weekend.

They also get two days in the work week when they can leave for home immediately after class, at about 2pm.

This is its principal, Mrs Jacinta Lim's way of ensuring that her teachers have a work-life balance.

She implemented this when she became principal of the school, which opened in 2014.

Mrs Lim told The New Paper: "It stems from my personal conviction that a good balance of work and private time is important.

"When my staff is well rested, they will be happy teachers. When they are happy, the children will be in good hands. It's what I tell parents during briefings too."

Her efforts won her the Work-Life Leadership Award by the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy in 2014.

Last year, West Spring was also named one of the 15 exemplary employers by Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) for not just prioritising work-life harmony, but also setting aside time for cohesion programmes to help employees bond, and having a mentorship coaching programme to ensure that all staff receive professional development support and guidance for their career growth.

To ensure her "e-mail and text during work hours" rule sticks, Mrs Lim nags at her staff to "sing the same tune".

She said: "The moment you start giving in a little, eventually nobody is going to adhere to the rule.

"For me, I play the role of the gatekeeper to ensure things don't get moved down to the teachers.

"There are some teachers who are very nice and see it as their responsibility to respond (to parents) on weekends or at night. There's a limit and I'll draw the line."

Initially, Mrs Lim received "feedback" from parents about her hard-handed approach, but she did not relent.

"If we take things easy and sway, parents may grow to become demanding. At the end of the day, it's about mutual respect," she said.

The Ministry of Education provides guidelines on educators' interaction with parents and the community, via the Code of Professional Conduct.

The underpinning principles include building mutual trust and respect with parents in making decisions that are best for the child, and exercising professional integrity and judgment in communicating and working with parents.

West Spring Primary School teacher Lim Ker Wee, 39, gives his work mobile number to parents because it allows him to update parents on the pupils' progress and vice versa.

The teacher of seven years said parents usually text about their children's school work, or when their children have to miss school for various reasons.

He told TNP: "When I started teaching, my colleagues told me it's not really advisable (to give out numbers), but the landscape is changing.

"What we emphasise here is mutual respect. I will let my class know that my number is available to all, but their parents must also know when is the right time to contact me. Once we agree on that, I don't see a problem."

A parent who wanted to be known as Mrs Tan agrees with the idea of mutual respect.

The mother of a West Spring Primary 2 boy added that she appreciates the convenience of being able to inform her son's teacher whenever he is sick.

Madam Irene Lim, whose son is in Primary 2, has never called his form teacher.

The teacher had given her mobile phone number to Madam Lim, 40, in case anything happened to her son, a cancer survivor.

"I avoid contacting her because I believe in respecting the teacher's privacy and giving her space," she told TNP.

"I have never called the teacher before. When she does text me, it's only to ask if I can join the class for a half-day excursion.

"Teachers already spend long hours in school. They also have their personal time and a family to take care of after school. It doesn't mean that we can disturb them every time just because we have their number."

This article was first published on Apr 05, 2017.
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