teachers in the Philippines

[New School] Roses for all: Thoughts on World Teacher’s Day

Shamira Liao
[New School] Roses for all: Thoughts on World Teacher’s Day
'Our professors are human, and humans tend to have a lot going on in their lives'

Roses are red, violets are blue. Without our teachers, what are we to do?

Every Teacher’s Day, street vendors would crowd the gates of my elementary school selling buckets of plastic-wrapped red roses. I remember the only time I actually bought one; it was for my English teacher, who always smiled and made us laugh. I bumped into her in the hallway as she struggled to carry what seemed like a mountain of cards, roses, chocolates, and pens. She thanked me sweetly as she added my rose to the pile.

Fast forward to freshman year. I came to class earlier than usual and left a wrapped gift on the table for my first period professor. She read the note and gave me a hesitant thank you, before asking, “This isn’t a bribe to get an uno, right?” I emphatically shook my head as the thought had never even crossed my mind. A bit of awkwardness hung in the air. She looked slightly embarrassed and gave a warmer thank you before starting the class. I was confused but not quite offended when I realized that giving appreciation gifts to your professors was no longer the tradition in college.

I quickly caught on to the new tradition. In between classes, we would vent our annoyances to our seatmates, feeding rather than extinguishing our frustration. I would complain about boring lectures, difficult exams, additional requirements, and of course, professors.

“Nagpapamajor na naman tong minor.”

“Terror prof pala ‘to.”

It was almost a game as to who could come up with the wittiest side-comment.

Pandemic blues

When the pandemic broke out, everyone had to adapt. Students and teachers alike wrestled with gadget and internet connectivity issues, learning curves with virtual platforms, and school-life balance, while trying to stay sane during lockdown.

Online classes commenced with a teacher saying good morning to dozens of faceless participants. Aside from the occasional message in the chatbox and forced unmuting when called to answer by name during attendance or recitation, the most interaction we got were the all-too-cheerful chorus of goodbyes and thank yous before leaving the meeting.

Yet in the privacy of barkada group chats, we would grumble about our professors as if they were the enemy, and not fellow comrades struggling to make sense of the world turned upside down. Although these sorts of fault-finding had always been there, these behaviors were intensified and normalized as cabin fever-induced negativity steadily crept up on us.

Funnily enough, I had social media to thank for the turnabout in perspective. The pandemic minimized extended family, friends, and acquaintances into tiny profile picture bubbles. Like many Gen Z’s, I fell into the routine of listlessly scrolling through my feeds. Not that it was the most healthy or productive habit (my social media addiction is a whole other story), but I would come across my teachers’ stories and posts about their family, their dogs, their food, their galas, their random rants. I was hit with shame by the overly obvious epiphany that teachers were people too.

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Smell the roses

On the topic of Teacher’s Day traditions, the high school essay prompt, “Think of that one teacher who changed your life” is all too familiar. That recognition usually goes to the charismatic professor, the motherly adviser, or even the ma-chika fresh grad. They liven up the classrooms as the textbook definition of inspiration.

But what about the terrors, the bores, the always-lates, the too-busy’s, and the unreasonables who, from the thousands of Freedom Wall bashes, seem to comprise the absolute majority of the teaching population? They may not be the most lovable or effective teachers, but they could use the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps the terrors sincerely care about equipping their students with the skills and knowledge they need. The bores might have simply been blessed with densely technical subject matter. The always-lates and too-busy’s may be juggling another job to make ends meet or preoccupied with familial responsibilities. Could the unreasonables actually be the forgetfuls or the unawares?

Maybe not. Perhaps these professors decided to devote themselves to this historically underpaid and underappreciated profession for the sole purpose of making their students’ lives miserable. The reality is likely somewhere in between. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that our professors are human, and humans tend to have a lot going on in their lives. We don’t have to make up excuses for them, but we can give them that partial points for effort.

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We can channel our frustration into taking actionable steps to remedy the situation. We can start by having open and honest discussions, laying down our concerns in a respectful manner. It might not work, but it sure has a better chance of working than complaining to our friends in the hallways.

To my fellow students, let’s take the time to prepare the most thoughtful gift, write the most heartfelt message, edit the most creative video collage, for the most bonggang Teacher’s Day celebration this year. Show them the knowledge, skills, and values that they taught us. And don’t forget to give roses of appreciation to all our professors, because they all deserve it. – Rappler.com

Shamira Liao is a 4th year actuarial science major at the University of Santo Tomas.

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