teachers in the Philippines

[OPINION] An open letter to my fellow teachers

Sensei Adorador
[OPINION] An open letter to my fellow teachers
'Education is not a race'

Dear teachers,

Understandably, we want our students to learn, because we envision that they can contribute to society and become the persons they want to be. However, this is the time to give them leniency, since things have been getting tougher and tougher.

The transition period from the old to the new normal is quite a challenge for all of us. And contrary to what most of us believe, if students are not complaining or do not speak out to their teacher, that doesn’t mean everything is okay. If you look at their social media accounts, some speak out their indignation towards the system. Others hide their disappointment and heartache towards the institution that claims itself as “a place of nurturing one’s talents and abilities.”

Their rage at the system is valid, and it is time for our administrators to have an intra-institution dialogue. Our system always uses top-down management, where we always follow the higher-ups’ decisions, but they do not directly experience what is happening on the ground. It is prudent to know about actual, everyday scenarios; decision-making should center on the students’ and teachers’ welfare, not on the system’s.

Administrators, you should be sensitive to the needs of your teachers and students. Students expect their teachers to be humane; however, you are pushing them to be barbaric, to bombard students with activities. A normal person cannot learn in an environment that puts them under a lot of work and pressure. We are not educating; we are turning them into lifetime workers.

There is no scientific study that claims tons of work is equivalent to learning. Students merely comply for fear of getting failing grades or being left behind by the system. It is a system that often relies on medals and class ranks to indicate how much knowledge a particular student has gained.

Of course, we teachers are guilty of capitalizing on this when we deal with our students. Sometimes, we threaten to give them failing marks if they pass their outputs late. This pressure is one reason students opt to plagiarize or cheat. Making them fearful will lead them to antagonize school, not to see it as a place for learning.

A class should be a negotiated space. Despite the digital divide that we experience, we must cater to students’ different backgrounds, goals, attitudes, and economic standing. There should be space to negotiate, while the goal remains congruent. We should allow our students the freedom to choose what is best for them, because, in the future, it is all about collaboration and critical thinking, not authoritarian thinking. We are a democratic country, and part of that involves exercising democracy inside the classroom.

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We teachers should not always dwell on grades. Admit it: when we we students, we questioned the system that divided us, too. If you were part of the honor roll, you were intelligent, and if you were not, others would label you as dumb or ordinary. Our parents would look at us differently when we arrived home with a grade lower than 85.

We must break the belief that grades define our self-worth. I understand that grades are important, particularly for scholarships and future employment, because our society measures our worth through numbers. However, focusing on grades leads us to miss the best things education offers. Some of the most important things are hard to assess. Some things are better learned outside of syllabi or modules.

It is not about our wants; it is about what our students will gain. In our daily lessons, we should imply that the end-all and be-all of education is not the grades, but how you use your learnings to make life meaningful and to help you contribute to society.

As a teacher, don’t use grades to oppress your students. We don’t know what their home life is like, whether they have to make an effort to get a decent signal or to even fund their online learning to begin with. Everyone is struggling.

Education is not a race. We should study Finland’s educational philosophy of “less is more.” Fewer outputs, more time to learn, and more time for the self. How can our students, after all, learn if school deprives them of sleep? Of socialization? Of me-time, or time for their families? They’re mostly facing the computer and making outputs.

Let us make the most of our time with our students. Do not see them as output completers, or sponges for information from course packs or modules. Instead, let us make our lessons meaningful and humane, and acknowledge that their rage is valid because we feel it, too.

Fraternally yours,

Mr Sensei Adorador
College of Education
Carlos Hilado Memorial State College – Talisay City
Negros Occidental

– Rappler.com

Sensei M. Adorador is in the faculty of the College of Education at Carlos Hilado Memorial State College, Negros Occidental. He is a member of the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND).