Teachers’ battle cry: Never surrender

Published October 5, 2018, 12:06 AM

by Roel Tibay

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

With all the tasks they have to accomplish and the paperwork they need to complete, being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs there is.

(photo courtesy of Leonor Magtolis Briones/ MANILA BULLETIN)
(photo courtesy of Leonor Magtolis Briones/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Despite all the issues and concerns being raised by various groups on the state of the teachers in the Philippines, four teachers – who recently received honors as 2018 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos – believe that there is so much more to being a teacher than awards, salaries, or benefits.

In time for the celebration of World Teachers Day (WTD) today, October 5, the Manila Bulletin was there as the four teachers shared their journey to becoming “outstanding” educators and how they deal with constant changes and challenges along the way.

Through their experiences, Mary Jane Ramo, a Master Teacher II of Tonggo Elementary School in Tudela, Misamis Occidental; Alma Janagap, Ed.D., a Master Teacher II of Pavia National High School in Pavia, Iloilo; Aimee Marie Gragasin, Ph.D., a Special Science Teacher V of Philippine Science High School-Cagayan Valley Campus in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya and Carla Dimalanta, Ph.D., a Professor 10 of University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City expressed hope that their fellow teachers – as well as the future generation of Filipino educators – will be inspired and become better versions of themselves.

Rising up to the challenge

For Dimalanta, the hardest part of being a teacher these days is “getting through the students.” Getting students interested in what teachers’ are teaching, she says, is “more challenging now because the students have more distractions.” Thus, teachers need to be more creative.

As the Philippines’ first female exploration geophysicist with a doctoral degree, Dimalanta has been in the teaching profession for 25 years. For young people, she notes that ithefield of specialization – which is exploration geophysics – might not be as appealing compared to other fields of study. That is why having a student or two become interested in what she teaches is enough to make her day. “I feel that I am able to accomplish what I have set up to do if my students are somehow inspired by what I teach,” she adds.

Gragasin could not agree more, noting that “being a teacher is not really an easy job especially if it involves paperwork. “There are so many paper works and I really do admit that at times, I would like to surrender,” she admits.

While it takes a lot of time and energy to complete these paper works, Gragasin believes that it helps them in their jobs as teachers. “We cannot do away with these paper works,” she says. “But, if you really love your job, you will love everything that comes with it – even the paperwork,” she adds.

In her 24 years of service, Gragasin believes that paper works are for something. “We could not just monitor our students with just the eyes and the ears that we have,” she says. “We have to have documents to somehow serve as evidence of what our students have done and what have we done as teachers,” she added.

Gragasin also noted that competing with the gadgets is another challenge for teachers like her. But, she notes that “if the students are very attracted to gadgets, as a teacher, you really have to level up your teaching – particularly your teaching strategies.”

“As a teacher, you have to keep yourself abreast with the latest trends around,” Gragasin explains. “You really have to level up and abreast yourself with what is going on outside,” she adds.

A teacher for 23 years, Ramo says that the most challenging part of being a teacher is seeing learners who belong to Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities – particularly the Subanen tribe in Tudela, Misamis Occidental – slowly forget their very own roots. Thus, it became her major advocacy to promote IP education and reintroduce the culture to the learners of her own school.

Ramo also notes the increasing number of learners who are struggling with reading skills. “In school, there are many children who are struggling with their reading skills and you can’t rely on the parents because some of them too don’t know how to read,” she shares. Despite this, she continues to gather parents and other stakeholders to help the children who are struggling in school. “They are all our responsibility so if we do it together and help each other, we can help them as well,” she says.

For Janagap, one of the hardest challenges in being a teacher is to be able to implement changes. In her 29 years of teaching, she notes that it takes a lot of time, support, and money to be able to initiate changes both in school and in the community.

Janagap’s advocacy is improving basic literacy skills of learners— particularly reading. Being anEnglish teacher for decades, she strengthened the remedial reading program and that has become a benchmark for other schools in the division of Iloilo and even in some parts of the region.

“Reading is so close to my heart and seeing the pains and the struggles of learners in reading, I want to help them,” Janagap says. Since reading is the foundation of all learning opportunities, she notes that “it is very important and I know that if I cannot help these students, what will happen to these kids…they are likely to become problems of our society then it will create a ripple effect because they will also have children who are like them because they have not understood the importance of education,” she adds.

From one teacher to another

While teachers face a myriad of challenges, Ramo believes that they can overcome it with “love” for their students and for their profession.

Aside from being a teacher, Ramo also acts as a school head. “There are times that I don’t have any sleep but I don’t calculate the time, I believe that if you really love your job and your students, that should be enough to keep you going,” she says.

For teachers who are having a hard time, Ramo tells them to teach not only with their heads but more so with their hearts. “When we teach with our heart, we do not surrender even if you have the naughtiest boy in the class, you do not stop to innovate so you can improve your way of teaching, improve instructional materials,” she says.

Dimalanta, on the other hand, notes that despite the low salary and too much work, teachers should not base everything on the financial remuneration. “It’s not just about the salary, if you’re really interested in shaping people’s mind, if you really have (the passion) for what you want to do, then this is something that young people should really go into,” she says. “We always say that teaching is a noble profession but it’s really uplifting when you see the students that you teach become successful, when they do better than you, it’s really a great form of accomplishment for us,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Gragasin tells teachers who are having a hard time to improve their time management skills. “Sometimes, it’s really overwhelming when you have to do lesson plans, make exams, check quizzes but if you set aside time, you will be able to manage all that paperwork,” she says. “Because of the requirements, there are laws that require certain documents to be written up, we don’t have a choice but to comply, yes, it’s frustrating at times, we all go through that, but if you set aside a time for it, you will eventually finish it,” she adds.

“As teachers, and for any other job for that matter, us – as employees – we really have to learn time management,” Gragasin says. “We have to learn what to prioritize and always remember that time management is life management so we really have to learn how to manage our time efficiently,” she explains.

Janagap also believes that time management is very crucial for teachers as well as “finding meaning to what you are doing.” Teachers, she says, should “find joy and meaning” in what they do. “If you work not just for salary, you will find the meaning in the nobility of teaching – it’s more of a spiritual and moral obligation,” she adds.

Being a public servant, Janagap says, entails sacrifices. “You do not work to be rich, public service is really a public trust,” she says. “Our work really entails much sacrifice and suffering because we barely have rest, but if you think that each minute that we devote to the children who need our help is a ticket for us to have a special place in heaven – then you will find teaching more meaningful and you cannot even feel the sacrifices,” she adds.

Teachers, Janagap says, “really are the luckiest people on Earth” because “we have a direct contact to people whose lives we can touch.” She hopes that her fellow teachers would be able to recognize these “opportunities” and help transform students who need their help.