Teachers are not exempt from stress and exhaustion; we need to rest, too
As a teacher in a public school, I have personally experienced the workload that teachers have to deal with during this pandemic. In spite of the huge shift from face-to-face to blended learning, we are doing our best to adapt to this type of learning modality; not to mention our struggle with the logistics of blended learning, like printing thousands of modules each week, communicating with parents more frequently, etc. Reports accumulate every day; various seminars and trainings are just a few of the things that we must attend to. Yet, our supposed vacation is still consumed by never-ending paperwork and reports.
As we are in the most taxing profession, teachers, too, need rest and relaxation in this stressful and dreadful time. It is ironic that the Department of Education (DepEd) is advocating the importance of mental health, but has not even bothered to ease up our work and the teacher reports we have to give for the time being. As teachers, we can no longer distinguish the line between vacation and work hours; even after the school year ends, we still think of the pending and incoming reports we need to accomplish. After graduation, we just woke up in front of a tarpaulin that said “Brigada Eskwela.” I even saw a meme on Facebook that said, “Di ko pa feel ang bakasyon pero Brigada na!”
I remember that days after graduation, we needed to postpone our teachers’ get-together because we were busy gathering pictures and other means of verification for our results-based performance management system—a mandatory portfolio that ensures we are working toward the achievement of the DepEd’s goals. We also needed to carry out our learning delivery modality course. There was even a time when I was juggling the completion of urgent reports and listening to a webinar that we were required to attend.
If only teachers had enough time to concentrate on familiarizing themselves with the new mode of learning, we would not have experienced this kind of appalling exhaustion. If only the DepEd had thought of ways of reducing the number of reports to be completed by teachers, our energies would have been focused on the delivery of quality education. But the teachers’ workload has only worsened. It has affected our way of life and made our mental health worse in this pandemic.
We also want to take a break whenever we are stressed, but we can’t do so because leaving our printers would lead to paper jams. We are excited to go on beach escapades, but there are reports to accomplish. While we look forward to cleaning and tidying up our homes, weekend webinars prevent us from doing such. The laundry is waiting, but we have to delay the chore because our bosses will suddenly call for a survey that needs to be done right away.
These are just a few of the scenarios teachers encounter today despite school vacation. Some teachers would say we just simply do it because we care. However, for me, we should not idealize this kind of culture and system of oppression, because it does not confer any dignity on us. We have lives after work. We have families we need to look after. Our lives don’t just revolve around the corners of our classrooms or on the monitor of our laptops. We are not machines that are going to work all the time.
The perception of teachers as overworked workers has been considered a cliché by some. However, it is different this time with the pandemic. It’s getting intolerable for us. Everyone is anxious, stressed, and depressed at these difficult times, and teachers are not exempt from such mental health challenges. As teachers, we are only asking for what is due us—a little time to rest.
MARLON P. LABASTIDA
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