OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
(First of two parts)
The period from September 5 to October 5 has been designated as National Teachers’ Month while the 5th of October is World’s Teachers Day. The theme of our national celebration is “Gurong Pilipino: Handa sa Makabagong Pagbabago” while the entire world will celebrate teachers with the theme “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.”
It is not difficult to justify spending an entire month celebrating teachers who spend their lifetime educating, inspiring, nurturing, and guiding the youth. Next to parents, teachers occupy an essential role in our development as persons. The values that we espouse today, the habits and ethic that we develop over the years are, to a great extent, shaped by our parents and the teachers who inspired us.
It’s a difficult job what teachers do. But they do it because to them it’s not just a job, it’s their vocation. That is why teaching has been called the noble profession.
Teachers need to develop and hone their skills in stimulating the minds of students. They need to be prepared academically but they also need to have the ability to motivate students. It’s not just a question of knowing what to teach but how to impart knowledge.
But teaching is just one part of a teacher’s task. There are many things they need to do that is actually not written in the formal job description. For instance, teachers should inspire. How many students took a particular career decision because of one of their teachers? I know many successful professionals who point to their teachers as their source of inspiration. Sometimes, even teachers who are “terror” inspire their students to do better, to overachieve, and to succeed.
In many instances, teachers also serve as compass to students who need to make important life decisions—even those outside school. Teachers deal with their students’ problems at home because it affects their performance in the classroom.
In the Philippines, public school teachers go beyond the classroom to serve as vanguards of democracy. Every election period, we deploy our teachers to manage the electoral process which in the hotly contested political climate of local politics is very dangerous. Our public school teachers risk their lives so we can exercise our right to vote. That is noble and heroic!
I remember when I was still in the Senate, I pushed for legislation to provide free legal assistance and financial support to public school teachers who encounter legal difficulties as a result of their job during elections.
On top of the fact that they work overtime during elections and the release of their measly allowance is delayed, they have to face court cases as a form of harassment from political rivals. This was why I filed that bill which sought to provide a mechanism for a free legal assistance to teachers who are charged with cases arising from a lawful discharge of professional duties during elections,
During elections, there have been many reports of harassment, abuse, and even death of public school teachers. I remember when I was running for my second term in the Senate in 2007, five teachers from Abra were wounded when they were ambushed by armed men while transporting election materials. And in Taysan, Batangas, two teachers died after a polling precinct was set on fire.
To refer to teachers as heroes is an understatement. We need another entry in the vocabulary to properly describe their sacrifices. (To be continued)