I’ve been working in a public school in Navotas for two years now. The sweltering heat, intensified by the big number of students packed inside the classrooms, is a usual scene. But
the dilapidated chairs, tables and blackboards are never reasons for a teacher like me to lose my passion for teaching. Despite the disadvantageous conditions of education that public school teachers and students experience, the belief is yet unmarred in all of us that with education, one can better our lives and that of the country.
On some days, students need to be in the clinic for ailments due to malnutrition. A handful of students are present in the classroom yet are mostly silent because of nagging family problems.
Some are neglected and abused, some are exhausted early because they have to work before going to school, some seek comfort in the shabby classrooms rather than deal with problems at home.
Often, it is hard to get the students to listen and learn, because they are too caught up in their own problems. Students are far from enjoying the joy and the fleeting moments of their youth.
Yet with reports and lessons to finish, teachers know the importance of listening to students and guiding them. When kindness has been shown to them and their hearts touched, these students are more than willing to learn.
This is when I realize, again, that teaching is more than adhering to educational standards and hitting satisfactory scores. In public schools, teaching is about helping students.
Whenever there are tardy and sleepy students in my class, I cannot afford to be outraged quickly. When I seek to hear them out, I learn of their struggles to study — and also to earn and provide for their families.
If there are students who are unable to submit a project, I can’t just bellow out my frustration over their failure to comply, because their parents often find it hard to support their schooling.
Even their daily allowance is hard-earned. And in the case of students who end up absent for weeks, I find myself in the narrow alleys of their communities to seek them out, visit them and find out how they are doing. I often get demoralized and dismayed, but it must simply be the love for my students and for my profession that I am still able to carry on.
It is the kindness of teachers that is the lifeblood of schooling, and it is in putting themselves behind and putting others forward that makes teaching noble. If not for kindness and altruism, how can teachers have the willingness to serve without the appreciation, let alone the fair compensation, that is due them for their efforts?
I seldom meet teachers who are unkind and indifferent toward their students. It is as if when students enter a teacher’s classroom, they also enter the teacher’s heart. Kindness and empathy can never be compensated; helping and guiding students so that change can take place in their lives is more than what teachers can be paid for, anyway.
It’s only when kindness and empathy are shown and demonstrated to the young that I can imagine a better society. It is true that things of importance are from the heart.
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Maria May N. Sevilla, 25, is a junior high school English teacher at Kaunlaran High School, Navotas City.
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