The enduring lessons I learned from teaching

iTEACH - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2013 - 12:00am

2013 marks a new beginning in my career. As I leave the profession I have grown to love, I look back at the eight fruitful years of insights and growth that was teaching.

From teaching, I learned the value of hard work. There was never an idle school day. Being a teacher demanded from me the habit of waking up early so as to have enough time to prepare visual aids, worksheets, drills, and quizzes for a productive class time. All of these would require tweaking after each session as the best planned activities might not necessarily turn out to be so inside the classroom. At the end of the day, lesson plans would have to be evaluated, homework would have to be checked, and a new set of requirements would have to be made for the next day. Of course, all these would be set aside, most of the time, because students would request for time to ask about an assignment or consult about ambiguities in their lesson. Alas, these requirements would have to be finished at home with the hope that there is enough energy left after a hard day’s work.

Through teaching, I was able to overcome the common fear of many that is public speaking. I had to, else my students would literally take over the class for me. But this profession taught me that it takes more than confidence, passion, and eloquence to hold people’s attention for an hour a day and 200 days per school year. I learned how to discipline a class, which my college textbook warned would always be in a state of entropy. More importantly, I learned that my students would look forward to my subject if I let go of the spotlight from time to time and have them prove to their peers that they can do well in the many performance tasks of my subject. All these would come to naught if the classroom experiences were not carefully designed before actual teaching. Teaching elevates public speaking to method and discipline.         

But outside of requirements and documents, the greatest insight I carry with me is that rare glimpse into a divine perspective shared with all educators. To teach is to understand that every human being is a work in progress. Personally, it has been a humbling experience to know that there were those students who did not do so well in my class but went on to pursue the most enviable of jobs after college. From this fact, I have come to realize that what is most important in basic education, more than imparting knowledge and skills, is making every student feel the security and confidence that he/she can succeed in life. That is why I will always have immense respect and admiration for the men and women who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the fulfillment of the dreams of young people. I believe my colleagues will not be able to do such a selfless act unless they have learned to regard their students like their own children.

Eight years after college graduation, many of my batchmates may have already received numerous plaques or enjoyed hefty bonuses from their companies. I have none of these, but there are mementos I treasure — that one whole illustration board containing very personal messages of gratitude, the small booklet of accumulated letters of insights from a class painstakingly typed one by one by a very thoughtful, young boy, and a picture frame of congratulatory messages written in broken English but in all heartfelt sincerity by my urban poor students when I won an award last year.

Last Christmas, I received e-mails from several students eagerly sharing how they were doing their share for our country. Graduates of prestigious universities, they are now part of an educational organization that aims to encourage the youth to teach in public schools nationwide. I thought of these messages as a final reminder that the work of teaching is all about the development of the minds and hearts of young people. For all who are and have been teachers, the best commemoration of all our hard work is the successful lives of the students we have taught. While it is true that no teacher may claim sole influence in a student’s life, every teacher has God to thank for the privilege and trust for using us as instruments in molding young souls to use their talents not just for their sake but for the good of others as well.

After eight memorable years, more than a hundred students may regard me as having been their teacher, but truth be told, it was I who learned the most inside the classroom.

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