A Tribute to all Teachers

remembering Falcon Memorial Elementary School...
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A Tribute to all Teachers

Unread post by *imesh »

Mother of All Profession

My parents used to tell me that during their time, teachers were held with high esteem and deep admiration. People looked up to them and loved them. Everyone wanted to be a teacher.

I remember a story about a community chief who summoned his constituents and made them explain to the community what they had contributed.

The businessman said, “Have you gone to the market today? I sold all the things you need and the foods you eat”.

Then the doctor followed, “Have you gone to the hospital? I took care of the sick and cured them all”.

The lawyer said, “Have you seen criminals around? No more because I charged them to prison”.

The engineer, “Have you seen those bridges, roads, and big buildings? I built them”.

Everyone was well applauded until the teacher spoke, “I’m sorry, I have not done anything that you can see, but if you heard the people who spoke before me, I taught all of them” to the thunderous applause of the people.

Prior to my coming to KSA, I taught in an elite sectarian high school in Manila belonging to the top-15 achiever schools in the country in terms of College Entrance Test results of its graduates; two-thirds would garner 99 and 99+% marks while its lowest passer would not be lower than 90. In my fourth year class – twenty of them – I asked what course they would want to enrol in college. Among the popular choices were on business, medicine, law, engineering, etc. No one wanted to be a teacher.

The result of that informal class survey revealed one thing: that teaching, the supposedly mother of all professions, is not anymore the attractive career that people used to look up to. It has become a second or third-class profession that the young, intelligent, and talented people – who could have great potentials in this discipline or who could inject new concepts to improve and uplift its system – don’t find worth venturing into anymore. Where have all the bright students gone?

I think it was the association of teaching as a philanthropic act that earned it the title, “noble profession”. Probably too, because in the earlier times, peoples’ lives were simpler and more focused on the humane side of things. People didn’t think so much of accumulating money as there were no bills to pay, no TV, computers or mobile phones to buy, and instead of using a car, they just walked or ride on animals’ back to arrive to their destinations. Family ties were closer, no powerful media to feed violence or distort sense of values among children so that teachers had no powerful rival in the task of educating the people. They were looked up to as the main authority of information and knowledge. The school served as the guardian of truth and values. It was a powerful institution that helped to shape social consciousness, preserved the culture and traditions, produced talents and leadership.

But in the advent of new technologies, things changed. The “guardian” role of the school is now being threatened by modernization – the TV, satellite shows, the internet, videos, etc. And even the so-called globalization has adversely affected cultural preservation, even values and mores. And the irony of it all is that while the educational institution now needs more of these bright people to its fold, the less and less of them are coming.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with modernization and in keeping pace with the times, provided man himself could contain and cushion the effects of its excesses. But if man becomes enslaved by modernization and learns to think like machines or computers, then humanity is heading into trouble.

In an article I read about a teacher airing his grievance, an administrator remarked, “Don’t worry, teaching will be abolished in the future and computers will replace you.”

Well, the administrator must have missed a point: that teaching is not only about instilling knowledge; it is also instilling feelings, principles, and values.

But social consciousness now tends to reduce the definition of value – to what, or how much material possession one can have. In my own home, I couldn’t believe when my four-year old niece commented to her mother, “You know, Mama, Uncle is better because he gives me money while Papa does not.”

Where did she learn to equate receiving money with being “better”?

So everything now revolves around money. We need money to pay our bills, rentals, to buy computers, components, mobile phones, VCD, TV, car, and what not. In every move we make, it requires money. Some even say that love doesn’t make the world go round anymore; its money, because money spells respectability, popularity, and power. The more money one has, the more powerful he becomes. And this new social thinking has taken a toll particularly on the teaching profession – because while the responsibilities are big and the works are enormous, there isn’t much money in there. “If you want to get rich, don’t go into teaching,” my professor would say, “…because teaching is service and sacrifice. A teacher is like a candle; it gives out light only when it consumes itself.”

Yes, teaching is service and sacrifice. But teachers pay bills too, buy foods and accessories, send their children to school, get hospitalized, rent house, and need to earn a decent living. There might be a difference between what the teachers and other professionals do but their needs remain the same; and neither does teaching make teachers lesser persons.

But what if this trend – of bright students abandoning the teaching profession because it’s not profitable and they are not willing to “consume themselves” – is not reversed? Well, the educational system would suffer and there will be a shortage of talented and competent teachers, thereby declining the number of quality graduates. Respect for teachers will further diminish because students would be more and more attached and influenced by televisions, computers, internet and by “how much money” one has.

Then a new order, of technologies and media, rules. And yes, teaching will be abolished because the teachers would then become immaterial and irrelevant, and will be “replaced” by computers.

It is hard to say what appropriate measures to apply to correct this trend, or whose responsibility it is to lead teaching back to its lost glory. But some people up there should just give back what the teachers deserve: the return of respect, and the bringing back of the “noble profession” – that was.

The brave does not live forever, but the coward does not live at all

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