Teaching: A labor of love

Teaching: A labor of love
'Love is always a challenge, and the only way to even attempt to respond to this impossible call is a matter of faith'

“Idol ko kayong lahat. Grabe. Sana maging ganap na guro rin ako balang araw. Sa ngayon, ang alam ko lang, marami pa akong kailangang matutunan.”

(You are all my idols. I hope I can be an accomplished teacher someday. Right now, I know I still have a lot to learn.)

My colleague was heaping deserved praise and apt salutation to teachers in general with a post on Facebook – we were bound to appreciate the ins and outs of the vocation having been thrown a few weeks into the job.

Alone, in front of collective innocence, in one of the most humble yet grandest stages of them all, and at the mercy of minutely-managed lesson plans and carefully-planned class schedules, we might have picked up a thing or two. 

Beyond everything she wrote, however, I was struck most with her wish at the end, which I quote above. Sana maging ganap na guro rin ako balang araw. (I hope you’ll be an accomplished teacher someday) 

I obsessively ponder over the statement: What is the pinnacle of teaching? Ano nga ba ang kaganapan ng pagtuturo? 

I find the need to translate to Filipino all the more poignant because of the nuance of the word “kaganapan.” “Pinnacle” fails to capture nearly enough of what “kaganapan” is trying to say (ibig sabihin). At best, it can only approximate the latter’s meaning.

Upon further reflection, I find that, perhaps, “kaganapan” may also be related to a concept in Ancient Greek philosophy: tēlos – end goal, purpose. “Kaganapan” here would mean the accomplishment of tēlos.

Ganap na guro,” then, would mean the accomplishment of teaching’s tēlos. This begs two questions: What is teaching’s tēlos, and how do you determine it’s accomplishment?

‘A calling’

In one of her comments, the original poster seems to answer one of my questions: Mararamdaman ko lang na ganap na nga akong guro kung lumaking malalapít sa Diyos ang mga estudyante ko. (I will only know that I’m an accomplished teacher if my students become closer to God.) 

As Christian Living Education (CLE) teachers, “close to God” sounds like a realistic goal. In this case, though, how do you measure one’s proximity to God? And is there any way to know this as a teacher?

These questions led me to an article I read in The Chronicle once about “the strange reality of teaching– frankly, “we rarely find out if (teaching matters),” since we don’t (and can’t) know its effects. The only way to find out is through explication (i.e., if the student comes up to the teacher and talks about the effect the latter had on his/her life).

Sure, but that’s a glaringly minuscule percentage as compared to (1) those who are actually positively affected, and (2) those who took the class as a whole. This only serves to visualize teaching’s quixotic character.

Maybe this “strange reality” is the same reason teachers aren’t as handsomely compensated as other jobs with an equal amount of work? But that deserves another discussion.

Perhaps, this is why teaching is a vocation (vocare, “a calling”) also. And the most perfect response to such a call would be one of love, as advised to me by one of my best professors. Alam mo ang sikreto para hindi ka mapagod sa pagtuturo – kahit bagsak na ang katawan mo – tutuloy ka pa rin? Mahalin mo ang mga estudyante mo. (Do you know the secret of how not to get tired of teaching even if you’re physically exhausted? Love your students.)

Beyond the boiling honey-glazed calamansi concentrate, the speaking techniques, the classroom management hacks, the tips from experience – very much like his vaunted oral exams, he’s able to put forward this statement that’s equal parts simple, true, and insanely challenging.

Love is always a challenge, and the only way to even attempt to respond to this impossible call is a matter of faith. Sa pagtataya, may pagpapalaya. (There is freedom in taking risks.) 

Beyond all practicality, isa na lang ang hinihingi: lundagin mo, beybe! (Only one thing is asked: Jump!) 

Finally, we go back to the questions: What is teaching’s tēlos, and how does one achieve it? 

First, to quote the same professor, “Umibig, umibig, at umibig pa rin.” (Love, love, and still love.) 

And second, in the analysis of French thinker Gabriel Marcel, every instance of “I love you” implies a “forever,” yet saying such an implication requires a consistent re-commitment to the invoked promise. Sa bawat bigkas, patuloy na nagtataya. (In every pronunciation of such a promise, there is risk.)

This is the only way I can think of how teaching is so life-giving – when, in your 24/7 job, you give yourself totally to an-other, what else is there to ask for? – Rappler.com  

Marckie San Juan teaches Christian Life Education at Xavier School Nuvali. He thanks  Ina Juan and Mr. Eddie Calasanz. The line “umibig, umibig, at umibig pa rin” was lifted from Mr. Calasanz’s poem “Awit kay Ana.”

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