Education and Home

How teachers oppress children

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven - The Philippine Star

One of my favorite photo collections is from the picture archive of the Historical Museum of London Town – St. Paul’s Cathedral subway stop. They are very large black and white pictures of Victorian-age grade school girls and boys in dark flouncy dresses with pinafores and dark suits. One frame shows them playing in platoon groups at the schoolyard; while another, shows them sitting rigidly in the classroom, the girls separate from the boys. In contrast, the third picture shows a class in chaos when the teacher’s back is turned.

When children are silenced and immobilized

Even today, the teachers’ demand for silence and immobility (conduct) is one of the measures for passing or failing a child, especially in the elementary school. As early as four to six, children all over the country, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, in many daycare centers and “kindergarten” shanties are being constantly scolded and persecuted. Their teachers are either grouchy retired teachers or para-teachers who are younger adults without proper training in the true nature of preschoolers.

Embarrassed that the visitors (that was me and my then Pagsasarili Preschool coordinator, Poy Llorador) would not be impressed, this teacher constantly rapped the desk with her wooden blackboard pointer. Meantime, her wide-awake children, who must have gotten immune to her shouts, were more excited by the teacher’s kitten gently balancing on the top of her bedroom divider.

How teachers become tyrants

Generally, we adults are too preoccupied with scolding our children. We keep looking for their defective tendencies, whether they are preschoolers, grade schoolers, or teenagers. “’Removing the beam from our eyes’ is part of the spiritual training of the teacher,” says Dr. Maria Montessori, who believed that the fundamental problem of education is the conflict between the adult and the child.

There are two sins which tend to distort our true vision of the children. They are pride and anger. Hence, humility and patience are the opposite virtues most needed. There is a great difference between an angry man amidst his adult companions, and angry man among children. The former will arouse opposing anger in others. As a proud person, he establishes an unpleasant reputation. In this way, he is kept in check by this “social control.”

Thus, a person in a position of undisputed authority, free from all criticisms, is in great danger of becoming a tyrant. He claims this undisputed authority as his right; and will regard any offense against it – ipso facto – as a crime. In fact, many teachers unconsciously come to regard themselves and their authority in this light. Thus, claiming dictatorial rights over the child.

Urgent: Giving emphasis to their psychological transformation of teachers over pedagogical methods

Since the solution to educational reform is psychological, not pedagogical, the social revolution in education does not take place. No progress in educational reform is possible until tyranny on the part of the teacher changes. The teacher does not have to give up her authority but she needs to exercise it in a different way. The solution, therefore, is the psychological transformation of the teacher and not pedagogical solutions in teaching methods.

The first step is to purge herself of these defects of tyranny with an act of humility. Dr. Maria Montessori says, “From this humility will be born a new respect for the soul of the child.” Once the teacher has made this act of humility, she will no longer look upon herself as someone whose duty is to mold the growing personalities in her charge. She must regard herself “as one that serves.”

Dr. Montessori compares the teacher to “a slave who waits and watches her mistress,” ready and eager to anticipate her wishes or to a humble laborer, who works at the task of building up the child’s freedom. This is a lowly task requiring minute knowledge and patient attention. However, the child cannot attain true freedom without the help of the teacher. Like a waiter, the good servant prepares the dishes and places them on the table, but he does not take it upon himself to say to the master, “You must eat this not that.”

The transformation of teachers

Below are some self-reflections of our Montessori teachers and how they underwent inner transformation:

Mrs. Iluminada Duran – from executive secretary to High School Principal

In 1979, Mrs. Iluminada Duran applied and was hired as executive secretary to me. A cum laude graduate, Bachelor of Arts major in Math from Colegio de Sta. Isabel, she had taught for six years at Sta. Isabel.

Born in Camarines Sur, Mrs. Duran is the eldest of eight children, who regarded her as their substitute papa since tatay (father) was a navy man and only came home every four years for three months. “When I was 11, my second brother was born. I could not go to school before my household chores were done. All of us were reared to do our share of chores.” At a regular high school, she worked hard at being an officer of then WAC, now CAT. In college, she strived to maintain her scholarship.

“I missed teaching. O.B. Montessori gave me the chance, however, to continue my career when one of the Math teachers had to resign. Dr. Soliven knew I was a Math major so she asked me to take over a class but insisted that I must train first, although I was confident I could teach Math even without Montessori Materials. When I entered the Montessori classrooms, I noticed that the Math materials made the abstract discipline of Math easy and exciting. As early as Grade III, the Long Bead Frame for multiplying four digit problems, into products of millions, was being used. Even the Pythagorean Theorem was introduced in Grade 5 using two metal boards of Geometric insets. Traditionally, it is taught in the Junior High School level.

“Thus I submitted myself to rigorous training. Mastering the Math materials made me admit to myself that, indeed, these sensorial materials are needed for the children to gradate the various difficulties in learning the Mathematical Arts.”

Mr. Jessie de Silva from a Certified Public Accountant to teacher

Mr. Jessie de Silva was a working student in college. He finished a Business Administration course major in Accounting. He passed the CPA Board Exams and soon after was a clerk for five years at Allied Banking Corp. The job was routinary, so he decided to change career paths. Soon, he was hired as Math teacher for grade school.

“In our teacher training, Dr. Soliven demanded that I unlearn all the traditional lessons I had learned in college – as if I had to go back to square one and learn again Mathematics the Montessori way. I struggled to overcome my pride since I felt I have already finished a degree and passed the CPA Board Exams and yet it was as if they were not enough. The Binomial and Trinomial Cubes and the Fraction Insets, which facilitates lessons in Algebra as well as the Decanomial Boxes and Peg Boards illustrate the concepts of square root. These materials allowed me to become a child again experiencing Mathematics in a clearer and more concrete way. Here, my transformation began as I humble myself to master the materials and the Montessori system.”

Presently as an accounting teacher to his teenager students, he fully understands that the continuum of the O.B. Montessori high school curriculum is aimed to address the need for economic independence of teenagers. “For 14 years now, I still am so engrossed with my teaching profession. It’s not far that I will devote the rest of my life at O.B. Montessori. It is my home, and it is where I have found my true and transformed self.”

Waiting for a new world

Since the ancient civilizations, the child was seen as an empty vessel that only adults can fill up. Education has, therefore, tried to form the “shapeless clay” of the youth.

Like a destructive cyclone, adults in all walks of life have left behind a debri of maladjusted grown-ups. They have injured and weakened each country either with their incompetence and accompanying penchant for trouble or worst – their criminality or insanity.

On a more hopeful note, Dr. Maria Montessori, writing the first UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child at UNESCO in the fifties stated that if adults knew better, they would never interfere in the “work of the child” – that is, to construct the ideal world of work.

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