Friday, November 15, 2013

Being a Teacher: My 8th Year Reflection

(a late re-post from my FB Notes dated October 5, 2013)

This school year marks my 8th year in the Teaching Profession.

In a few days, most of us will mark the first month of the opening of classes. In countries like the Philippines, teachers and students have already been in their classrooms for four months; while teachers in Singapore and Malaysia will soon be wrapping up the school year in two month’s time.

What point am I trying to make? Education systems may change, but amidst all of these differences is one constant – the Teacher! As educators, many of us may share stories, which make each of us distinct; but there will always be stories that we will find in common.

In this commonality, many of us will agree that we do not just educate our learners so that they have a mind to fill; but we are educating them so that we can have high hopes for a brighter future.  We do not just look at the content of what we teach but we also look at how much our learners will appreciate what they know and change the world to a much better place.

In my last school, where I was involved in training and coaching teachers during my last year there, my boss asked me before I left, “Don’t you regret leaving? You won’t be able to do there what you did here.  You will be back in teaching.” Deep inside me, my answer was, “I don’t regret leaving because I am leaving this a much better place compared to when I first found it.” I guess we feel the same way about our learners and how we want them to respond to their generation’s challenges. We want them to leave a world much brighter and peaceful from the one that we have passed on to them.

Up to now, I still remember the words of my college rector, “Embrace a world with a purpose much larger than your own… Born for greater things, choose the better things.” We should remind ourselves and our learners that we are all accountable.

All of these things which I have just said are all aspirations, “too ideal” as some may put it, but I guess that’s what we are tasked to do and I guess that’s why we have chosen to become teachers. What does it mean to be a teacher?

Being a teacher is working more than the usual working hours that may extend beyond the call of duty. Time used for planning, correcting, corresponding and many more. I wonder how my classmate in graduate school in the Philippines managed her time. She was a Social Studies teacher in Rizal High and had more than a 100 students in one of her classes.

Being a teacher is being proactive, to seek solutions as challenges come. We are called to live as solution seekers and not problem magnifiers. Every educational system or environment will have its flaws. Accept it, and be the change that you can be. One of the things in my bucket list as a teacher is to be able to volunteer for a few weeks in a rural region of the Philippines. There are places where they have a50 to 100 square meter school building with about two to three classrooms that hosted several grade levels. The students would travel hours by foot from their homes to reach school and back. In stories that I have heard, there are students and teachers who leave home at 4:00am in order to reach school by 7:00am in time for classes. And I guess, where most of us are right now is a hundredfold better than the teachers in these places.

Being a teacher is being able to give and give until our learners are capable of taking accountability and passing on the things that they are expected to do.

Being a teacher is living a life of sacrifice. We always try to live a life of balance. Friends,relative, peers and superiors may tell us to “balance our lives”, yet sometimes this balance is tilted to the side where we have to do more for the sake of our chosen profession. We will remember stories when we have given up social time and play for our learners’ needs.

Being a teacher is realizing that we are one of the least paid professions; yet, our rewards do not come in terms of financial gains. Our rewards come when we see our students carry on in life to make significant contributions to the world. My first pay as a teacher in 2006 was a little over three hundred US dollars, but the richness of the friends and experiences that I have gained in the past years could never compare to my salary.

This list could go on… I will end it here.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk said, “A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others.” Are we good teachers?

Happy World Teachers’ Day to those who are, were and will be teachers!

October 5 is the official date set by UNESCO to commemorate World Teachers’ Day!

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