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Young Blood

A teacher’s battle

/ 05:00 AM February 11, 2018

I know what the greatest battle of a teacher is: apathy. This word is commonly used in relation to students, but little did I know that it best suited me as a teacher.

When I started teaching, I chalked up experiences to prove that my life as a teacher would be more than my job description. For example, last year one of my students joined the cheer dance competition for our school’s sports festival. She enjoyed the practice sessions for several days and nights together with her classmates and other students. But a few days before the competition, she told me that she had decided to withdraw because she didn’t have enough money to buy a pair of white shoes, the kind required in the competition.

As her adviser, I didn’t want her efforts to go to waste. And I clearly saw her desire to join the competition. To solve the problem, I decided to give her some money so she could buy the required shoes.

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It used to be that I would go as far as phoning a student’s parents to tell them that their child had been absent for more than four days. I would then set up a conference with the parents and inform them of the student’s classroom behavior, progress, and weaknesses.

Fast-forward to the present: I find myself different from what I was a year ago. Instead of personally asking my students why they are always absent, I merely record their attendance without making the effort to find out what’s wrong, and proceed to my lesson. Instead of having them talk about their goals and dreams, I end up dominating the entire time talking about mine, even if the subject does not interest them.

At one time, my supervisor spoke with me and asked how I was. I was honest enough to reply that I was seeing myself slowly becoming apathetic. I knew that it would disappoint him, but I did not know how to sugarcoat what I was feeling, so I decided to be straightforward. He listened to me intently and asked me for concrete evidence why I thought I was descending into apathy.

“I am more focused on finishing my hourlong lesson, and more often than not, I lack motivation to give what my students deserve,” I replied without hesitation.

My supervisor patiently waited for me to finish. And then he told me something that helped me see what was wrong: “That is scary. Do you know that the opposite of love is, not hate, but apathy?” he said.

He did not dwell too much on his remark, but I knew that he wanted me to think about it. I then questioned my supposed passion for teaching. Maybe I was slowly letting myself hate my work, my vocation, and it needed to stop.

I don’t want to be an apathetic teacher. I want to sympathize and empathize—to make my students feel that there is someone willing to listen to them and help them achieve their wildest and greatest goals in life. And it is my great hope that other teachers will realize this, too.

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Justin M. Politico, 23, is a senior high school teacher at Riverside College Inc., Bacolod City.

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