Every time it was said that teaching is the noblest profession, I half-hardheartedly nodded, thinking that was how I was supposed to react. But what I really wanted to do was raise my eyebrows because I thought the description was truly exaggerated.
Let me say that since the start I had been aware that I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Teaching is not my calling, I insisted. Isn’t there a passage in the Bible that goes, “Many are called but few are chosen”? I could not avoid wondering how I could possibly belong to the chosen few who would enter the kingdom of teaching when I didn’t even belong to the “many” who were called. Well, in the first place, being a teacher was the very last thing on my mind, to the extent that I did not even bother to think about it. What for? It was not my cup of tea, or coffee, or even water.
When you are a teacher by heart, at this point you’re probably hating me for looking at this job in a different light. Oh, pardon me, isn’t it that teaching is not even considered a job? While lovers have their own terms of endearment for each other, teachers have theirs, too, with regard to their work: “service” and “labor of love,” just to name two. How sweet! But do I sound insulting? I guess you now hate me even more, and you would want me to stop.
Anyway, in my five years of taking an education course (I shifted from political science to education, so that explains the added year), I can’t remember even just one time that I felt assured by what I had taken. There was confusion in my mind, a growing feeling that I could not name. I often told myself that after graduation, I would be free to pursue what I really liked (and obviously it was not teaching). I would say that taking up education as a course was the most foolish decision that I had made—but then I had no choice because it was what my parents wanted for me.
When it came time for the practicum, I was so unsure of where I was heading to. I couldn’t believe that I was about to take the highlight of my course. It was like I was in a wonderland except that I’m not Alice and the battlefield is more of a wonder than Alice’s land. So, every time our teachers asked us to read an article about teaching and write a reflection on it, I would immediately think, Oh, no, another one. The author is just spicing up the article just to inspire the teachers. No, thanks.
But of course, my heart and emotions were not as hard as the hardest metamorphic rock in the universe. I also felt touched and inspired—somehow. But mind you, it was not enough to convince me to open my eyes and accept the beauty of teaching.
Good thing that I was still able to survive the arena of practice teaching, which allowed me to graduate. But it was not yet over for would-be teachers; we still kept coming back to school to review for the LET exam. I told myself that if I didn’t pass the exam, I would never take it again because failure would be a surefire sign that I was really in the wrong profession. But then I passed the exam, and before I could totally grasp it, I had become a permanent secondary teacher in public school.
I won’t be shy. I will admit that ever since my first actual experience in teaching, I had been eating all my words critical of the profession. I had to get into a teacher’s shoes to finally understand that teachers have been right all along. I can now totally relate to them, and now I appreciate the world of educators.
I’m totally aware that my profession is both great responsibility and right attitude. So, definitely, it’s not that easy, or what they call chicken feed. But how hard is hard, and how difficult is difficult? Allow me to count the ways.
Let’s start with the lesson preparations including visual aids that cause us sleepless nights. I had almost forgotten how it was to wake up early, but through teaching, I relearned.
Then there are the different kinds of students, and let me name a few. There are those whose names we immediately memorize because they are really born hungry for attention. How about those who have a late body clock? Or worse, those who see school as a tourist spot which they will visit only when they want to? Then there are the energetic ones who seem to take all the vitamins on the planet. What about those students who are like ghosts—one minute I see them in front of me, and the next thing I know, they’re sitting in the middle of the room, then at the back, all the way to the end of the period? I’ve also observed a student who is always sleepy… The list can go on and on.
Checking the output of students is like watching a movie. My emotions constantly shift: I get irritated, sad, inspired, frustrated, stimulated, amused, and everything else in between.
And even if our daily schedule is, say, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m., it doesn’t automatically mean that our work begins and ends there. Definitely not. No questions asked. I realize that this full-time job is just like being a parent. Am I talking too much? Yeah, I know. The papers are already piling up like a mountain of laundry, so sometimes we don’t have time anymore for our loved ones, let alone ourselves. So, who would like to give up?
I guess there’s a point in a teacher’s life when he/she thinks of giving up and quitting. I’ve already felt that. In fact, I can’t remember how many times I’ve thought of surrendering. But look, I’m still here. Alive and kicking, although sleepy.
After all I’ve said, I believe there’s no other work as fulfilling as teaching our students. There’s this saying that I agree with: “Though there are bad things that are happening, still, good things are as infinite as the raindrops when it’s raining.” For me, teaching is like being in love. You are in ecstasy. You feel great the whole time even if you’ve had a bad day. You know you are fulfilled but you can’t describe it, no words can truly capture what you’re feeling inside. Even if you’re tired as hell.
Honestly, I’m still trying to come to terms with the experience of being in a teacher’s shoes. I’m still in great amazement that if a student is learning just the smallest detail of the lesson, it’s such a big deal for me. Now who would understand that feeling? No one else but my co-educators, who would both sympathize and empathize with me for all I have been through.
Yeah, there’s no money in teaching—but the everyday connection with our students is just so priceless. Even if we gathered all the money in the whole wide world, it will never have value compared to what we undergo and are about to undergo. We may never be rich in our job, but our lives are getting richer every day.
What’s more is that I’m still young in the service. Who knows? I can be the richest teacher in the years to come.
C.P. Bolalin, 25, is a teacher at Don Servillano Platon Memorial National High School.