[OPINION] My mama, the educator

In my last phone call with my mama, I asked her for some teaching advice, which I do on a regular basis. She has been an educator for 17 years; I followed in her footsteps by becoming a teacher myself. I’ve been teaching for six years now, and she’s nearing retirement, but sometimes I’d still call her up to ask for help in managing my students, handling burnout, preparing for accreditation, or simply for some uplifting words of encouragement. 

My mama didn’t choose to be a teacher at first. She had started off helping at her parents’ gas station, then she became a full-time mother. Eight pregnancies and five children later, she eventually had to work to help my tatay to support all of us. She sold insurance for some years, and then she was invited to teach religion at an all-girls school in Alabang, where I studied. It was not an easy career shift for her, as she was already 42, but she accepted the job. She needed to work to support the family, and she wanted to give back to the school that had granted me a scholarship and was giving me a good education. 

My mama’s transition to being a grade school religion teacher was combined with other major changes in our family’s life. Even if my brothers and I studied at expensive, exclusive schools, we’re not a well-off family. Some of us had scholarships, and most of our family income would go to tuition. Because of this, we had to scrimp on other things. For example, we rode a beat-up old van which would stall in the middle of the highway because we couldn’t afford a better vehicle. We couldn’t afford the pastimes and luxuries of our wealthy classmates and had to content ourselves with simpler joys. We moved from one cramped apartment or housing to another every few years, depending on where we could afford rent. I remember keeping my things in moving boxes and never taking them out, because I knew we would move out again. 

Despite all these changes and having to juggle her roles as a wife and a mother to five children, my mama still worked to become a better religion teacher. She took a course in teaching at Philippine Normal University and became a licensed teacher. She taught religion to female students of Grades 1, 2, or 3 (whichever was assigned to her) from Monday to Friday. She prepared her lessons with much gusto. Recently, I remembered opening her old notebook and seeing how detailed her lesson plans and agenda were for those days. Every year, for more than a decade, she would prepare a whole grade level for their First Holy Communion. This was a task she undertook with fervor, as she is a very devout Catholic. She sees her students as souls she wanted to bring closer to God. 

She also puts a lot of love and care in her relationships with her teacher colleagues. Her co-teachers remember her as being very funny and full of laughter. She is fondly called “Granny,” as she is one of the older ones in the faculty. When her colleagues have problems, both work and personal, they go to her for advice. Some of her colleagues look up to and trust her so much that they would visit her house to introduce their fiancées. She’s even been a godparent in some weddings of her colleagues. 

A big part of her role at the school is being a mentor to several students. At my alma mater, they have a mentoring system: every student is assigned a mentor, a member of the school staff, who helps in the student’s personal development and guides her in developing virtues and character. The mentor and the mentee would have regular “chats,” talking about school, family life, friends, and other aspects of the student’s life. All the years that my mom has been teaching, she was also a mentor to many students of different grades, listening to their problems and concerns, and encouraging them to make the right decisions. Her mentees over the years remember her as being very motherly, going beyond the official role of mentor. 

Now, my mother is no longer teaching; she is now the Coordinator for Personal Formation for grade school. She takes care of activities like the class advisory, spiritual activities like First Holy Communion, Eucharistic Procession, and confessions. She oversees the mentoring system for the grade school: she would train the mentors, assign the mentors to the students, handle behavior issues, among others. It’s a multi-faceted role, and she does this on top of finishing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership (even if she’s pushing 60). 

I got to visit my parents’ house recently and stay with them for some weeks, and I witnessed my mom’s workday during the pandemic: several meetings and mentoring chats. I saw how well-adapted she is to the work-from-home setup: she has become so used to setting up Google Meet calls, and she arranged an attractive video call background, with nice new curtains and plants. Even if it is challenging (as it is for most teachers), I was pleased to see my mother thriving in the online setup of her work. I even asked her advice on how to conduct an online parent-teacher conference, as I was also working. 

With all her dedication as a teacher, my mom surprisingly discouraged me from becoming a teacher when I expressed my desire to do so. “It doesn’t pay a lot,” she said, “Take a course for a higher paying field, then when you’re financially stable, you can get into teaching.” But my mother, with her example, has taught me that there is more to a job than monetary reward; there is the fulfillment in touching lives. – Rappler.com

Lex Adizon, is a teacher at St. John’s Institute, Bacolod City. Born and raised in Manila, she moved to Bacolod City seven years ago. She comes from a family of educators.

Voices features opinions from readers of all backgrounds, persuasions, and ages; analyses from advocacy leaders and subject matter experts; and reflections and editorials from Rappler staff. 

You may submit pieces for review to opinion@rappler.com.