[OPINION] In response to Senator Imee Marcos' statement on teachers

In 2018, I was teaching children of all ages 5 days a week, 10 months a year at a small private school in San Juan. 

There was a student named Elsa. She was smart and athletic, and she loved learning a lot. In addition, she had a pleasant personality. However, she was having some difficulties in coping with her subjects, which in turn decreased her confidence at times.

She always lamented the fact that she didn’t have any other hobby besides sports. Most of her friends inside the classroom weren’t the “physical” type; they would rather go to a corner and talk about stuff than play games.

One day, I asked my students who among them wanted to join a student photography contest organized by the Bureau of Fire Protection.

She raised her hand.

I taught Elsa and a couple of other students the basics of photography and encouraged them to try different things. Before they started taking pictures, I reminded them, “Be confident, don’t be afraid to ask permission, and learn how to take the best shots possible!”

It turned out that she was really interested in photography. Elsa always asked to take more shots, and she made it a point to borrow my camera every day.

Two weeks later, she joined the contest, and after a day of photography exercises, she came back to school with a big smile on her face: she got third place in the competition.

“Sir, I would like to thank you for introducing me to this hobby. I am now more confident and I have a new hobby to practice!”

The following school year, she would go on to win second place in the Division Schools Press Conference for Photojournalism.

I felt happy that I was able to become a part of my student’s personal development, and that Elsa was able to attain the fruits of her hard work. Later on, she finished her elementary education as an honor student. 

Teaching was never my dream. However, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t committed to the vocation. On the contrary, I did my utmost best to train myself, to undertake professional development, to be the most effective version of my teaching self. (READ: [OPINION] Have you asked your teachers how they're doing in this pandemic?)

I knew that in order to attain the respect and affection of my students, I had to give the teaching profession the respect it deserves. It meant that I had to come on time for class, to dress well, to be at my best mental and physical form, and to prepare my lessons and rehearse them before I entered the classroom.

I firmly believe that every single person who professes to be a teacher is exerting all their efforts to provide the best education and guidance for their students. I also see the endless sacrifices that these educators make in order to reach out to their students, to empathize with them, and to become “second parents” to them.

If these people were not committed to their jobs, and thus caused students to supposedly fall behind in soft skills, as Senator Marcos claimed in a recent interview, then why do they spend time beyond their working hours just to ensure that their classrooms are well-designed? Why do teachers even bother to go beyond their specialization and learn new skills? 

If teachers weren’t good at teaching soft skills at all, then how do we explain the endless stories of people who were inspired by their former teachers?

I couldn't understand how the Senator could blame teachers this way. I am sure that teachers know they need to provide holistic education to their children. (READ: [OPINION] Glorified but ignored: How to truly honor our teachers)

Instead of blaming teachers for not being able to teach soft skills, as Senator Marcos claims, the government could alleviate the issue by investing more in the education system – publishing better books, providing more classrooms, and enabling teachers to better tackle the educational challenges brought about by the 21st century. The government could also tackle this problem by increasing teachers' salaries.

It makes me sad that teachers have to get the short end of the stick once again. – Rappler.com

Earl Carlo Guevarra is an English teacher at an international school in San Juan City.