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The heart of a teacher

Since 1994, Oct. 5 has been commemorated as World Teachers’ Day (WTD). Through the decades, the importance of teachers in our lives has been underscored by development themes, and this year is no exception.

“Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers” is the battle cry of the United Nation’s culminating celebration of WTD today. It puts teacher empowerment as a priority goal in achieving the target of providing universal primary and secondary education for all children by 2030.

To empower them, the UN recognizes that teachers must enjoy professional independence, freedom, and the tools needed to deliver quality education in the midst of all the crises, conflicts, insecurities, rising intolerance, discrimination, as well as budgetary restrictions.

If one puts all the above objectives and challenges to heart, one thing stands out: It’s tough to be a teacher in today’s world. It certainly seems to have been a simpler task more than half a century ago when I was sitting in a modest classroom and intently trying to comprehend everything that my teacher was saying as she stood in front of a chalk board.

Learning becomes more demanding

But the world then and today are poles apart, and learning has become more demanding for our youth as they prepare to face the complex demands of surviving in a wired world, not to mention adapting to the intricacies of global competition.

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Certainly, the above concerns would make a lesser teacher cringe and altogether quit. This is why, for half a million Filipino teachers who have committed to imparting knowledge to their students, the heart remains the crux.

Making a mark

Going back to our growing up years, most of us will remember those teachers who have shown keen concern for our learning development. These acts could range from that simple, but seemingly grandiose act of putting a star on our work sheet, to the more intimate one-on-one talk about any topic.

Teachers who have made a positive mark on our life become permanent bookmarks that we constantly refer back to in our adulthood. They may not be the best topics during our reunions with former schoolmates, or at the dinner table with children and grandchildren, but we keep whatever they had meant to us close to our hearts.

Sometimes, it seems these subjective lessons have contributed more to fortifying our characters today, and have helped us in reaching what we have so far achieved.

Sure, our math teachers may have been successful in drilling in us those multiplication tables and countless equations and formulas, but they also taught us that patience and practice are keys to achieving mastery of the seemingly irrelevant pieces of information.

More teachers needed

On the other hand, teachers who have devoted their lives to meaningful mentoring and teaching are to be lauded for their dedication to the profession.

In the Philippines, where the average teacher-pupil ratio could be as bad as 1:43, it would be difficult to expect teachers to have enough time to improving their own knowledge and skills. Just grading those daily quizzes and long tests will surely drain the life out of anyone.

The teacher shortage continues to be made more conspicuous against the high six percent growth in student population in public schools. This number of new enrollees, incidentally, reflects the country’s wayward population growth.

Apparently, we need more teachers, not only to bring down the ratio of teachers to students in a classroom and keep up with the influx of new enrollees, but also to be able to give the teachers reasonable time to improve their knowledge and skills.

Ironically, the Philippines takes the cake when it comes to feting teachers. In 2011, by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 242, National Teacher’s Month is celebrated starting Sept. 5 up to the WTD celebration on Oct. 5.

During this month, schools in both the private and public sectors, prepare for a culminating program where flower corsages are given to the teachers and song-and-dance numbers are performed by the students, often per classroom or year level, for the faculty members.

More tasks ahead

The international celebration of Teachers’ Day should remind us that there is more to establishing a strong movement that cultivates the Filipino culture and celebrates teachers’ service and heroism.

It should remind us that the status and working conditions of teachers on all levels, as well as their educational effectiveness should be addressed whether they provide academic, technical, vocational, or art education. This includes security of employment or tenure, career development opportunities, and fair workplace practices.

Teachers are key to quality learning

Teachers, according the UN, are the key to ensuring the successful achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive and quality education for all and in creating societies based on knowledge, values, and ethics. They are the frontline workers without whom quality learning cannot be achieved.

WTD 2017 also singles out higher education teaching personnel who contribute to the economic and cultural progress of societies and human development through the pursuit, advancement, and transfer of knowledge. Without these freedoms, our goal of a sustainable future is at risk.

Mom is first true teacher

Of course, WTD would not be complete for me if mothers are not recognized for their role in inspiring their children to learn, and to persevere in sending them to school and guiding them through their multiple assignments and school projects.

Our moms may not have had the proper education that our teachers had in terms of mentoring, but the desire to ensure that their children acquire a proper education made them relearn forgotten math equations and historical accounts.

They made sure their children would be able to properly accomplish their home works and be adequately prepared for the next day’s quizzes or tests.

A mother is a child’s first true teacher, and for this, would always be cherished and loved.

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