Thank you, Teacher

/ 08:46 PM October 04, 2011

Today is World Teachers’ Day. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who keeps up with what’s happening in the world. Unesco made the declaration in 1993, and even back then it was recognition long overdue.

Classroom learning is not a recent invention. And at the center of the rooms and the action have always been the teachers. Armed with tediously written plans.  Clocking in long hours. Usually working for a pittance.  And with much less esteem than that accorded doctors, lawyers, engineers and even basketball players—as if these professionals did not pass through the hands of overworked and paltry-paid teachers.


Today is, in fact, the culmination of a month-long recognition of teachers in the Philippines. President Aquino recently signed Proclamation No. 242 declaring Sept. 5 to Oct. 5 of every year National Teachers’ Month, to increase public awareness of the value of teachers in guiding families, strengthening communities and building the nation.

For a month now, teachers have been getting freebies, discounts and special promos from stores and other establishments.  They have received an unusual amount of exposure in the media. A fun run has been held in their honor.  Metrobank has awarded some outstanding educators and so has Bato Balani Foundation.


At 10:05 a.m. today bells will ring and a special prayer for teachers will be said simultaneously nationwide. Imagine the power of a prayer said by millions of students at the same time. Imagine how much more wallop it could pack if entire families joined in. The aim is not to break down heaven’s gate. Rather, it is to ask for blessing and guidance for teachers past and present, that they may be lifted to a place of grace, wherever they may be.

In addition to the prayer, everyone is encouraged to say “thank you” to at least one teacher today, be it face-to-face, by letter, by card or via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook.

But why do we have to be prompted to do what should be one of the most natural things in the world? Teachers teach, we learn and we are all the better for it.  Shouldn’t we be grateful in some way?

The truth is that we very seldom are.  We think teachers are just doing their job, so why make a fuss about it? We do not see teachers for the heroes that they really are.  In this country, as a general rule, famous people are not given to thanking their teachers publicly. When Mr. Aquino, in his recent State of the Nation Address, paid homage to one of his teachers, it took everyone by surprise, including the teacher he cited.

Compare this to the attention given teachers elsewhere.  In the United Kingdom, people videotaped themselves thanking their teachers in response to the “Bad Teacher” movie.  The two top contenders in the recent “American Idol” brought their favorite teachers to the finals, and each teacher was rewarded with a new car. Even the world’s most famous dropout, Bill Gates, acknowledged his drama and math teachers: “There’s no way there would have been a Microsoft without what they did.”

According to Department of Education, there are 507,822 teachers in our public schools and 107,474 in private schools. Add the faculty of all colleges and universities, the tech-voc teachers and the retired educators, and we can see why teachers are easy to take for granted. There are far too many of them.

Students are also in contact with teachers day after day for at least 10 months out of the year.  If it is not true that familiarity breeds contempt in this case, it at least breeds indifference.


But there is no denying that small miracles happen in our classrooms every day, thanks to teachers.

Like Michelangelo, there are teachers who see the David in our rough marble and keep chipping away to awaken the talents buried deep within us. Dedicated teachers keep us deeply engaged and make us aware that if we don’t get the lesson, we are really letting ourselves down, not them. They believe that learning happens in the mind and in the soul, not in the exams and certainly not on the report card. Even the least remarkable teachers can make us feel safe, if not loved, in their classrooms, and that’s something they couldn’t have just picked from out of any college of education syllabus.

To these enablers and ennoblers in our schools, on behalf of generation upon generation of students, we say simply and sincerely: Thank you.

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TAGS: editorial, education, gratitude, opinion, Teachers
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