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‘Uncouth, thick-faced’ teachers

THE letters titled “Teaching sideline” (Inquirer, 11/29/07) and “Teachers cheat by not teaching” (Inquirer, 12/17/07) prompted me to write this letter.

Some experiences in the past several years have confirmed my suspicion that many Filipinos no longer have a high regard for the teaching profession.

A few years ago, I was introduced at a wedding to a relatively young Quezon City councilor who went to the same private school I attended from elementary to high school. From across the table, “Mr. Konsehal” asked me what my course was. When I told him I was taking secondary education, major in English at the University of Santo Tomas, he looked at me contemptibly, saying: “What? You wanna be a teacher?”

His apparently rhetorical question silenced everyone (including his own entourage) at our table. Needless to say, I was taken aback by his failure to hide his condescending attitude. (After all, diplomatic skills are expected of politicos like him.)

I was left deeply wondering why he reacted that way. Perhaps he thought I was a masochist for wanting to teach, considering that most teachers get an awfully “pathetic” salary. Or perhaps, during his student days, he was victimized or disillusioned by his own teachers’ improprieties.
How, indeed, can we teachers be seen as role models if we sell to our students “Chocnut” and “Boom-Boom lollipops” inside the classroom? How can we gain their respect if we dump money into their hands and order them to go to the canteen pronto to buy us one cup of rice at lunch time?

Do we not realize that we come off uncouth and thick-faced if we constantly “joke” to students about giving a “pakain” during their birthdays, Christmastime, graduation season, or when their OFW parents arrive from abroad? How shameless can we get to send a student on an errand to a government office to carry out a personal obligation just because our schedule prevents us from doing it ourselves?

Meanwhile, letter writers have worried me no end with their various accounts of the unethical, unprofessional and exploitative practices of their own teachers. These “horror” stories further cheapen the image of my profession.

Certain observations made me realize that this problem boils down mostly to the teacher’s upbringing, which makes it even harder to solve, for the teacher is blind to his or her own malpractices. But something must be done. All I can hope for is that the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will address this problem. Likewise, school administrators should monitor very closely their teachers’ behavior, making sure they do not abuse the considerable power they have over students. Parents as well should not be afraid to speak up against abusive teachers.

To my fellow teachers, we may unfortunately be underpaid, but that does not justify unprofessional conduct. Let’s have some self-respect.


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