The Questions They Asked
While spending my summer vacation in the Philippines, I was invited as guest speaker in a seminar organized by a teacher education institute for their Education students. I obliged for being a teacher myself, I consider it both a pleasure and an obligation to help young people who are aspiring to become teachers understand the complexity of the teaching profession. I want them to realize that teaching is not just any job – something that people wanting to be employed should turn to only when there are no other jobs available in the market.
After delivering my talk came the usual question-and-answer session.
I was asked – “Do you think you are a great teacher?”
That was a question I didn’t see coming.
Part of my preparation when invited to speak is anticipate the questions that I might possibly be asked and mentally get the answers ready. For that question, I did not have a ready answer.
So, I just answered it as best as I could.
I said, “That’s a question that only my (present, past and future) students could answer. I am as good or as bad as what my students think I am (or thought I was or will be thinking I am). The truth is the students are the the best judge in determining the greatness or ordinariness of their teachers. They are the ones who witness every meeting the adequacies or inadequacies of the people assigned to teach them. Only the students could say how excellent or mediocre their teachers are. However, there is one thing I could assure you – I never shortchange my students. I always come to class prepared.”
Little did I know that that would only be the first of a series of unexpected questions.
I was also asked, “Why do you need to teach in South Korea?” That question came as a surprise. I almost said that is not related to any part of my presentation. But I refrained from offering that excuse and played with the question anyway.
I responded with a single word – “Economics!!!”.
They understood… I guess!
That I said because that’s the answer they were expecting. They would not believe anything else. Would they believe had I told them that it was not the search for a greener pasture that brought me to South Korea?
The common perception in the Philippines is if somebody applies for a job overseas, it is to satisfy the desire to earn more money. Secondly, Filipinos abroad accept jobs not in line with the college degrees they pursued.
Before the next question came, I remember telling the Dean of that institution’s Education program before my talk started that it was “job burnout” that prompted me to revisit the “career path” I set for myself many years ago. Teaching overseas is part of my plan – something I pursued only when I got tired working as a school administrator.
I also told the attendees in the seminar about that and I added that initially my intention was to be out of the country only for a year. However, when I noticed that here in South Korea my health got better and that I am having more time to pursue my passion for writing (not to mention that the remunerations are great), I decided to stay for as long as God would permit.
“What’s the difference between teaching in the Philippines and in South Korea?,” was the next unexpected question.
I answered, “None!”
It’s simple, teachers are teachers wherever they are. Notwithstanding their location they would first establish a good rapport with the students then perform all the activities that teachers do in the class.
I said that the principles and strategies in teaching and learning are universal. Wherever they are, teachers draw from the same pool of teaching and learning methodologies. Whoever they teach they get to choose which ones from the same set of educational philosophies would inform whatever decisions they make in the classroom.
I pointed them back to a certain portion of my presentation where I said the following: “Pedagogy dictates that the teachers should be able to master the subject matter, set learning objectives, motivate students, design learning activities, facilitate learning, construct assessment and assess learning.” These are the things teachers ought to be doing whatever is the nationality of the students they are teaching. Wherever and whoever they teach, teachers are expected to display excellently their pedagogical skills and manifest the behavior expected from professionals like them.
After that, I asked them to read my essays entitled “Professionalism Among Teachers” and “What Teachers and Students Expect From One Another.”
Another question that I did not expect to be asked, the last one, was – “Am I satisfied with the current educational system?”
I said that the shift to K–12 basic education system, to me, was the boldest and perhaps the best initiative the government undertook to overhaul Philippine education. Obviously, all the educational programs put up by past governments failed for the simple reason that we remained as a “developing country” until now.
Whether the new education system (K–12) works or not is too early to say. It depends on the kind of Filipinos that the schools will produce in the future and what kind of performance they dish out in the socio-economic and political fronts for the country. If after 10 to 20 years the Philippines will finally be classified as a “developed country,” then the ongoing educational reforms are effective.
For the aforementioned to happen, I argued that the present educational system should inculcate in the students two basic qualities of persons/citizens that could help solve the ills of society – self-sufficiency and personal accountability. Such are the values lacking among Filipinos.
I told the participants that if I ever I will be putting up a school of my own, I will tweak the curriculum a bit and make sure that the students become self-sufficient and personally accountable persons/citizens upon their graduation. I will add components in the curriculum to ensure the development of such values in them.
If the said values the school would fail to teach the citizens of the Philippines, the future generation of Filipinos will not be any different from who and what the Filipinos are now.
The schools, I reiterated, need to help the students to become personally accountable for their own lives – to do everything they should to succeed, to not rely on anyone to achieve their goals in life, and to not think that it is somebody’s duty to help them.
I told the participants in the seminar that for a school system to be truly effective and successful, it should succeed in changing the mindset of Filipinos – a mindset that revolves around the principles of self-sufficiency and personal accountability.
My lecture was entitled “The Ps of Great Teaching.”
The Ps I discussed were the following:
That’s not a typo there, there are two “passions” in the list, one with a capital P.
It was my turn to ask the students questions after I answered all theirs.
“Which of the Ps of great teaching is most important for you?”
I got many good answers.
When they asked me to answer my own question, this was my response:
“All the Ps are important. You cannot teach as best as you could when you lack any one of them. However, for me, Passion is the most important.
Passion with a capital P means the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Becoming a teacher is following His example – to be self-less.
Like Jesus, teachers have to carry their cross. The cross and Jesus getting nailed on it was the symbol of humanity’s salvation. Education is the cross that teachers carry on their shoulders – that cross called education is what brings salvation to the soul of every student in their classes.