Remember the love of a teacher this Christmas

iTEACH - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2012 - 12:00am

At gunpoint, would your teacher offer his/her life for your sake?

The fact of the matter is that he/she may already have.

I pondered upon this as I read the heartbreaking stories of the six educators who gave up their lives to protect the very young students of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shooting made me recall that during the Manila hostage crisis, the driver and tour guides were the first ones to escape from the ill-fated tourist bus. Similarly, many of the teachers in the Newtown shooting still had time to escape from the gunman. But they did not. They refused what their instincts probably told them and responded instead with courage and conviction.  If this was any other ordinary mass shooting, we would only shed tears for the victims. For this incident, however, we partake of the heroic stories of teachers who willingly sacrificed all so that young souls may continue to hope and dream.

“We weren’t surprised, their students meant everything to them,” shared the family members of the six slain educators when asked what they thought of their loved ones’ heroic deed. From the answer, it is clear that even before this tragedy, these teachers already knew that their profession demanded nothing less than the offering of one’s life for the growth of others.

Teachers are people who are experts of a particular subject. Moreover, they have the rare gift of making others understand what they have mastered.

But the greatness of teaching does not merely lie with imparting knowledge. What distinguishes the good from the well-loved teacher is how the latter practices the science of teaching with the art of genuine concern and devotion for their young students.

My former principal would always say that teaching is a business of formation. No other profession demands a magnanimous heart as part of a skill set. And this is not only for one person, but also for a class comprised of many unique individuals and personalities.

I remember the most admirable colleagues that I have worked with. Ms. de Guzman, an English teacher, had generously accepted (without additional pay) to become student prefect on top of the many requirements she had to check in her language class. Yet, not a day goes by without her supervising the misbehaving students placed under her care. She invests in the maturation of her students by spending a couple of hours after official time to record the progress of her students. In a few months, even the most hardheaded students are all smiles as they are congratulated on the improvement in their behavior.

There is also Ms. Valiente who embodies what every class adviser should be. Every time teachers approach her to complain about her class, she simply replies, “I will talk to them.” True enough, the very next day, the behavior of the class is considerably improved and students are more wary of their actions. Though calm and always gentle of manner, she is not the type whose kindness is easily abused. In fact, when she is upset, her students do not feel fear but embarrassment and guilt for disappointing their most cherished mentor. Such respect can only be earned by spending time to express care and concern for each of her students. When her students need a listening ear, she is available. If her students enter as contestants for inter-school competitions, she spends her Saturdays with her students free of charge but full of love as she cheers them on in their own adventures.

This is the vocation of a teacher. Every day requires a daily sacrifice of utmost generosity.

The teachers of Connecticut were heroes long before they died a martyr’s death. Like many of our own teachers, they already gave much of their time and talent, and shared these with children they regarded as their own. Their ultimate sacrifice was born of their daily task of looking out for the children entrusted to them.  That is why, at the moment of danger, the offering of one’s life for one’s students is the sole option for to be a teacher is to bind one’s life to those of your students.

The six teachers at Newtown Elementary School were no match for the assault rifles of a madman, but their love and sacrifice was sufficient for the world to dwell not on hatred but on service, not on death but on lives full of meaning. Violence did not have the last word that day. Madness did not have the last word that day. Out of this most selfish act grow the seeds of love and self-giving.

It shouldn’t take a shooting to realize that a teacher’s job is life-giving. This Christmas, let us dwell on the mystery of God’s love by reminiscing the  examples of our most beloved teachers.

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