Teaching used to be a noble profession, a thankless job in many respects. Perhaps, we all can look back on good memories with one or more teachers during at least 14 years we spent in school from primary to tertiary levels. There may be those who we look up to as inspirations, and others we remember with disdain.
On October 5, the world celebrates World Teachers’ Day, an annual activity since 1994 to raise public awareness on the contributions of teachers to education and development.
The Philippines is one among more than 100 countries across the globe that observes a National Teachers’ Month from September 5 to October every year since 2011 when President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued Proclamation No. 242 “to celebrate the role and service that teachers play in guiding families, strengthening communities, and building the nation.”
PD 242 was in tune with the intention of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) “to mobilize support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.”
Teaching is a profession that does not pay well, compared with the legal or medical profession.
The government has already raised teachers’ salaries but the rates are still near-pauper standard of living.
When we were young, many of the children my age wanted to become a teacher when they grow up. These days, I seldom hear children wanting to pursue the teaching profession. I don’t know if this is because they don’t get inspired anymore with their teachers or that they were made to believe that being a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or call center agent has better opportunities to work overseas and earn more for their families.
My nephews and nieces who were born in the 90s view the teaching profession as just a side job that entails a lot of hard work, and a stressful one at that. I believe that’s because that’s what they see in me. So, I am not a good example of a teacher.
A couple of months ago, my high school friends and I visited Sister Nieves, our principal at St. Paul College in Bulacan. She was very strict, a real terror to many. She was feared, but well respected. A petite nun but she roared the moment she saw a student misbehaving. We practically grew up with her during our high school years.
Now that we’re somehow successful and disciplined in our own fields, we think that we owe her a lot of what we have become. Seeing Sister Nieves 30 years after we parted ways brought us good memories of our high school years. We were laughing as we reminisced those good old days, including memories about the naughty students.
It was probably that kind of inspiration we got from Sister Nieves that many of us in our high school batch ended up joining the teaching profession, either as a full time or a part-time job. It may not be as financially rewarding as those in the accountancy, engineering, interior design, and other professions, but nevertheless gratifying with the thought that we are able to give back something to society.
It gives a different kind of high when you hear students expressing gratitude for the things they learn, and see their work improving at the end of a term. The sleepless nights and stressful times become worthwhile when students tell you that they see things differently than when they began in the class.
From my experience in schooling, I tell my students to be grateful for teachers who are strict and stingy with grades because in all likelihood, that provides them the discipline to work harder and learn better than teachers who are very generous with grades and hardly give them practical exercises and assignments.
It is, however, depressing when students don’t show enthusiasm and become truants, but beg for mercy at the end of the term to get passing grades.
In some cases, parents and guardians balk at the idea of disciplining their children in school. Others hate teachers who give failing grades to non-performing students, and pass on to the teachers their duty to discipline their misbehaving children.
Teaching is indeed a noble profession, but it does not seem to be an attractive career choice because of the poverty-level salary rates, and lack of respect from the community.
It gives consolation that the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the books; they fill the minds with learning, not their pockets with money.
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