Teaching students is an incredibly rewarding experience, according to 85-year-old Gretna Evangelyn Rankin, sharing her reflections on teaching in the ever-changing landscape of Cayman’s education system.
Ms. Rankin grew up in East End, and says that throughout her childhood years her desire was to always become a teacher. For her, it was not just about becoming a teacher, but becoming the best teacher she could be for the 20 Grade 3 students in her classroom at East End Primary.
Her mother, Ennis Lilly McLaughlin, and two of Ms. Rankin’s aunts were teachers with no formal training. However, Ms. Rankin wanted to make sure she had official qualifications, so she attended Shortwood Teachers College in Jamaica for two years to get her degree. In those days it was common for Caymanians to travel to Jamaica to receive formal training for most careers, as the local schooling system only went to 6th Grade. Young people interested in teaching careers would try to seek odd jobs at the schools until they were old enough to go abroad to continue their studies.
“Growing up in East End, I was more of a tomboy and my mother made pants and shirts for me just like she made for the boys. I loved to swim, search the bushes for mangoes and go to church. Most of all, we had respect for others and the elderly,” she said.
As children, she said they had to learn to do all sorts of things, as there were no helpers and all the women did their own housework. Women did not go out the home because there was no work to be had, so they made sure their homes and children were well taken care of.
“I just knew I wanted to become a teacher … at 18 I taught for a full year without pay so I could stay in the school system, just to be able to go to college,” said Ms. Rankin. At school Ms. Rankin taught all subjects such as mathematics, English, geography, reading and writing. Cooking crafts and other domestic arts were taught by parents at home, she said.
After school Ms. Rankin helped out at the East End church, after which she would prepare her lessons for the next day.
Hearing today’s stories of Cayman’s school system, and about what teachers, children and parents are experiencing, Ms. Rankin, who also became a member of the Cayman Protection Board, and was a Justice of the Peace from 1954 to 2016, says she does not know what has happened to Cayman’s children when it comes to respect, manners and kindness to each other, but points a finger at the parents.
“The children’s misbehavior, I blame the parents for that … I think some of the parents do not show enough interest in their children and some do not make the children understand what they have to do.”
Ms. Rankine has no children of her own, but she said back in the day, the kids of others were well looked after and they were good children.
“I didn’t hear them using any bad language and carrying on … that did not happen in our days,” she said.
In the past, Cayman social and cultural traditions dictated child-rearing as well as what was taught in schools, which older folks now claim was beneficial to the cultural welfare of the islands. She said parents were expected to control their children’s behavior, and a least one parent was at home to see that the children were looked after.
“I blame the parents for what is going on with some of the children today … my mother was a teacher before she married. Before that she was a housewife, and my father worked for the Merrens, but they both found time to teach us manners and good behavior,” she said.
She did offer some guidance for today’s teachers as well.
First of all, she said that teachers must have a love for the children in their charge, and that they should try to teach them discipline and how to be dedicated to their work.
Enjoying her retirement years at her home in East End, Ms. Rankin, who married the late Oneal Rankin, said she finds pleasure in word puzzles, reading the Cayman Compass and talking with friends on the telephone and people who happen to stop by.
“Tonight I am waiting to listen to U.S. President Obama’s farewell speech,” she said.