Tribute to Teachers
September 1, 2007
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I stand here in front of you today: 10,000 teachers from all over the country, attending this annual event: Tribute to Teachers. And I commend the Bato Balani Foundation and Diwa Learning Systems for showing our teachers that they mean a lot to us.
10,000 teachers – wow, that’s a lot of people, and I was actually very happy for Bato Balani and Diwa that a lot of teachers come to this event. And that was the way I felt, until last night. Because last night, a very disturbing thought came to me: why would thousands of teachers, some even from far provinces, come to Manila, wait in front of the Araneta for hours, sit here for a long time, and come back home late at night?
Is it for the experience? Probably not. Is it for the snacks? I don’t think so. Is it for the tribute?
Tribute to Teachers – that’s what this is all about. So that we can show you how much you really mean to the Filipino people. So that we can show you that your profession is a noble one. So that we can show you that it is you, the teachers, who can inspire Filipinos to greatness.
And 10,000 teachers had to go to Araneta, to Manila, just to hear that. What a shame!
“Shame?!”, you may cry in outrage. But yes, it is such a shame – because you shouldn’t have had to come all the way here to know what your community, your country, should have told you, should have made you feel, everyday all these years of your labors.
It’s a shame how many Filipinos look down upon teachers. It’s a shame how many Filipinos denigrate teaching, both as a profession and as a vocation. And most of all, it’s a shame how many Filipinos fail to see that our nation is in this pathetic state because we have forgotten to respect and value teaching.
My grandmother and my mother were both teachers, and I became one too, just this June. In my whole life, I had never thought of any other career but teaching, because I admired how my mother, my first teacher, shared so much knowledge, to the point that, in my younger years, I thought my mother was omniscient. At a young age, I said to myself, “Teaching is a noble profession.” And I thought that everybody, or at least everybody who went to school, felt the same way.
But soon after I told the public that I wanted to teach, an educated businessman wrote a letter to me and published it in a newspaper. He said many things, all leading to the “you’re-so-young-to-know-the-real-world” theme, but what really irked me was when he told me to get out of the comfortable confines of UP Diliman and instead join the rat race in Makati.
I was irked – because teachers are NOT inferior to the managers in Makati. Teaching is NOT easier than any other profession.
Quite the contrary! Teachers are the conduits of knowledge that enrich young minds. Teachers mold these minds, equipping them with the skills to discover knowledge on their own. And because teachers are the ones whom the students see and emulate, they must set a good example for the students – an example of diligence, perseverance, and thirst for knowledge and progress.
No scholar gets to learn everything by himself. No government official is born so knowledgable he never had to study. No captain of industry is so unschooled he was never taught by a teacher.
Can any other job be more difficult? Can any other responsibility be more daunting? Can any other profession be more noble?
I’ve been told that long before I was born, teachers were held in high esteem. They were called “guro” or “maestra”, which derived their meanings from “guru” and “master” – leaders, experts, great figures. Those were the times when communities, recognizing the value of excellence of the intellect, knew the value of teachers, and showed it. Those were the times when our country was ahead of all others in this part of the world.
But the advent of new job opportunities that paid more and demanded less eroded that esteem. Those who bravely venture into the profession are no longer called “guro” or “maestra”, but are described as “teacher lang”. Those who don’t do well in high school are told “mag-teacher ka na lang”. Ironically, that businessman who thought that the Makati or Ortigas rat race is more challenging than teaching is, himself, a professor. So now, even teachers think themselves inferior to businessmen.
This is insidious – when we start to believe we are less than we really are; when teachers start to believe teaching is inferior to business, or politics, or industry; when no more bright minds join the profession. When, as a result, teachers stop trying to be better teachers, stop learning new things, stop aiming for excellence, that is when the country will grind to a halt.
For knowledge, like water, does not rise above its source. The teacher can only give that much that she has, or thinks she has. And the student gets only what the teacher can give. For learning to take place, the teacher must know more than the student.
What then can we expect when teachers are made to feel low? Don’t the students become even lower? And even when these students get out of the “small” shadow of their “small” teachers, aren’t they the poorer for starting out with less?
Small minds, small people, small progress. In Japan, Singapore, and the Scandinavia, teachers are highly respected and much valued. Look where they are, and weep.
No, ladies and gentlemen. Our country’s slide from the region’s #1 spot to the tail end is not due to corrupt politicians, though we have them, too. It is not because of natural disasters, because we’ve had them for the longest time. It is not because of laziness, because our people work hard.
It is because of this: much of the country has lost its high regard for teachers. So much so that you have to come here for a tribute, and be reminded of the nobility of what you do, when you should all be enjoying both spoken and unspoken gratitude in your respective communities, never made to forget how exalted you are, and forever driven to excel in your craft.
I dream for the day when our teachers will again be called “maestra”, “maestro”, and “guro”, with all the respect and high regard due them. I dream for the day when people would stop saying with disdain “teacher lang kasi”. I dream for the day when 10,000 teachers do not need to come to Manila to feel good about their profession.
But for now, let not those who disparage teaching distract you from your noble work. Let not those who look down on teachers steal your respect and regard for yourselves. Know only that you have the capacity to inspire children to greatness, and in that, you, yourselves are great.
The majority of you who still carry the ideal must carry on, until our country wakes up from its stupor. You must inspire your peers to rise with you and regain their pride. You must insist to excel, to be called once again, “maestra”, “maestro”, and “guro”.
Let me be a testament to your work: the product of the best that teachers have to offer – the openness of mind, the unflagging of the spirit, the unquenchable thirst for learning. In joining you, I pay tribute to all teachers, to the hardships you endure, to the ideals that drive you. I vow to become the best that I can be, so that I can proudly proclaim:
Ako si Mikaela Irene Fudolig. Guro.