If I could give a post-it note to all teachers to inspire them to continue their arduous battle, I would present it to them with a smile. Having been in the classroom for six years, I understand the burden that weighs on each teacher’s heart: to make a difference in the lives of students despite the hardships and challenges that we confront in this profession.
As a product of the mystic success of what we call education, I desire to encourage my fellow teachers in the field to stay on track to prepare our youth in building our nation.
Apart from equipping young people with knowledge, skills, and values to succeed in this vastly demanding society, our greatest call as front-liners is to build their morale—that is, students who enter our classrooms will believe in themselves, exert vehement effort to accomplish their goals, and persist amid all odds. Although it’s ambitious and daunting, we should always roll out the red carpet for them, bring them to platforms where they can express their ideas, so they can shine in the most brilliant way possible.
We plan our lessons, strategies, and tests rigorously, but let us not be afraid to occasionally deviate from our lesson plans. Let us deliver words of encouragement and challenge our students whenever teaching moments arise. In doing so, we unconsciously render our best speech because its impact lasts for our children’s lifetime.
Realities such as corruption, poverty, inequality, crime, and injustice dominate the news, but we should close our eyes and ears from those that will pull us down and dash our remaining hope. Instead, we should set our sights on the bright future ahead. It might flicker and dim, but the fire in us will stoke the passion among our students. They are fragile, and we should prevent them from giving up even if we feel like doing so ourselves. As they become empowered, they will be ready to fight their battles. It might not be a sweet journey, but overcoming the bitterness will bring out the best in them.
Many of our students grapple with times of darkness, such as financial and family problems, peer pressure, frustrations, failures, and bullying, but our presence in their lives is not an accident. Our lives intersect to let them understand when they start to question, doubt, and disbelieve. Thus, we should make sure that the classroom is where they can feel safe, free, and privileged. When their world begins to crumble, we show them the path where they can be whole again, as we tell them that their wounds are never permanent.
Even if they get low scores, miss the standards, or hurt us when they misbehave, let us not grow tired of getting up early and staying up late for them, of devoting our precious time and offering a huge slice of our lives to them, of being the loudest voice to validate their worth and uncover their potentials.
Pull them up when they fall, encourage them when they get disappointed, help them bear every defeat, and make them learn from each mistake. Give them opportunities to be victors and make every triumph—small or big—a celebration of their improvement.
I once handled a section that was branded negatively: students with low self-esteem and disruptive behavior. At our first meeting, I noticed a girl who looked intimidating. As a journalism teacher, I met that class only once a week, but it did not stop my concern for this precious child. I always called her to recite despite her resistance. As the days passed, she became lively in our discussions. In fact, she astonished me as she debated with grace when she reached the fourth year. My heart melted when I realized how much I could contribute to a person’s life through my chosen profession. The girl in my journalism class is one among the many I have influenced, and will influence if I do not get tired of this work—something I have to remind myself time and again.
We should never lose hope and give up on our students. One day one of them will offer the newest invention, propose the best solution to perennial problems, introduce a philosophy that will serve as a battle cry of their generation, or revive the old, fading values. This student might be the person who sleeps during our lecture, talks all the time, or fails to submit even the easiest assignments. By believing in them, we can change their fate and alter their course.
Said the American author John Erskine: “Let’s tell our young people that the best books are yet to be written; the best paintings have not yet been painted; the best governments are yet to be formed; the best is yet to be done by them.”
Of course, this is the kind of investment that may take long years to produce dividends, but it’s worth it. We will have wider roads, a booming economy, and a brighter tomorrow as we produce strong and responsible citizens who believe in their power to effect change—because we believed in them.
The pile of papers can become demanding, the deadlines deadening, and the system hard to swallow. But the images of our students and their dreams should flash clearly in our minds. Our calling is about them and for them. We teach because we love them, and we value the great things that they can do.
We will keep our faith in them until they achieve their dreams—even if doing so will cost our time, money, and energy. This sacrifice will pay off in our lifetime, in another, or in 100 years, but that doesn’t matter because we will hope together that it will.
Our army keeps growing, even beyond the classroom—in gyms, open fields, streets, and alternative learning systems. We are never alone.
Indeed, we will not be stepping into our classrooms had no teacher made a remarkable difference in our lives. We are all products of teachers who came before us and sparked in us a dream, and started a revolution that does not end in death and defeat but leads us to heights of redemption.
Khristian Ross P. Pimentel, 26, is a public school teacher in Antipolo City. He is working on his thesis at UP Diliman to earn a master’s degree in educational psychology.