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Can Anyone Teach? (The Extra Mile Teachers Walk)

Search any site on the internet for the highest-paid professions in the world and you will not find “teachers” in the top 30. Expand your search and look for the list of professions in different countries where the practitioners receive the best compensation packages and you will find out that teaching is not among them. You will not find a country where teachers are ranked among the highest money earners.

Teaching not classified among the highest paying jobs, of course, is not surprising. That has been the case since time immemorial and it is most likely not to change anytime soon. One possible reason teaching as a profession is not getting the recognition it should get is because of the pervading notion that “anyone can teach.” You cannot say the same for law and medicine… not just anyone can practice those professions. But how true is it that just anyone can be a teacher?

But even if teachers do not get the recognition  and sufficient remuneration they deserve, they wholeheartedly perform the role they have embraced. Indifference and poor salary are included among the thorny steps in the extra mile that teachers need to walk when they have accepted that teaching is not merely a profession but a vocation. It is not merely a job to perform but an obligation to carry out.

Acknowledging that teaching is not merely a job but a duty  to fulfill  is what makes teachers go the extra mile, to do what is more than required in the performance of their tasks, including sacrificing personal resources and sometimes even happiness. Teachers understand and fully grasp the nature of the responsibility that they agreed to fulfill when they signed up for the job. They know it’s not easy. How in the world would one consider it easy to be responsible for the education of other people, especially the young ones? When did it become easy to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and values and the development of skills of your fellow human beings?

Teachers would be one of the highest-paid professionals if only pay would be commensurate to how significant is one’s job in the enlightenment of the soul, the preservation and enhancement of the fabric of society, and the socio-economic development of a nation. Teaching would certainly be at top of the list of the highest-paid professions in the world.

But it is what it is. Teaching is not a profitable profession. If it is material wealth one would like to accumulate, teaching is not the profession to have. The realities confronting the teachers in the academe could really make them say a lot of things in the “present unreal conditional” form. There are times that they couldn’t also help but make a “wish statement” like “I wish that I were a health care professional.”

And why?

Healthcare professionals like physicians, surgeons,  and dentists, consistently round out the top 10 in the lists of highest-paid professionals.

What they (the medical practitioners and their fellow health workers) do, maintenance and restoration of  good health are very important. For that, they deserve the pay they get, most especially during the time that the coronavirus pandemic was  raging. But nurturing the human spirit…helping a person achieve holistic development is as equally important, if not more important. What professional endeavor could be more meaningful than helping your fellow men achieve their full potential for them to become responsible human beings and productive members of society?

And not only are the teachers not getting the pay commensurate to the importance of the work they do and the effort they need to exert when doing their job, but they also don’t  get the recognition they deserve.

A study concluded that American society does not generally view teachers in the same way, as they view other professionals; the belief that “anyone can teach” is not found in other professions. For example, not just anyone can play professional baseball, be an accountant or engineer, or practice law or medicine.

Such is the indifference teachers, as professionals are getting.

But how true is the contention that “anyone can teach?” Those who know what it takes to become a teacher would say that it is a fallacy. That “anyone can teach” is an erroneous assumption.

Education is not just a matter of whether you can teach or not but also whether or not you can make the students learn. Even if a person is an expert in a particular field, it is not a guarantee that they can teach what they know. Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach it.

Hiring just anyone to become a teacher is doing a disservice to the teaching profession. Hiring somebody to teach a language just because they could speak that language  is a mistake. Not because somebody is good at math that they should be allowed to teach math. It takes a lot to become a teacher. Teachers undergo rigid training for them to hone their pedagogical skills. They read a lot knowing that teaching and learning are both grounded in Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and other related fields. They understand that they need to be familiar not only with their field of expertise or chosen subject area but with different principles and strategies to effectively deliver learning and teaching. They know that when they are done teaching in the classroom, their work is not done yet. There are other things to be done – checking graded activities and preparing a new lesson plan. The preparation of a lesson plan, in itself, is a tedious process.

The list of the things that teachers need to know and do is long. At the end of that long list are two characteristics that teachers need to develop if they wish to succeed in the profession. Those are PASSION for their work and COMPASSION for their students.

With all the aforementioned, what would anybody assume that just “anyone can teach?”

Be that as it may, teaching will forever be a NOBLE PROFESSION! Nothing can diminish its intrinsic value.

One thing is for sure, all successful professionals in the world – business executives, lawyers, architects, engineers, surgeons, physicians, dentists, nurses, brokers, and what-have-you – know that their teachers, who did not mind walking the extra mile contributed a thing or two or more into whatever they have become.

The Keys to Effective Teaching

This is the talk I delivered when I was invited as a resource person in a webinar for Education students in the Philippines on February 16, 2022.

Part 1

Part 2:

On Filipinos Teaching English In South Korea

Filipino teachers attending a meeting of the Association of
Filipino Educators in Korea (AFEK)

Most universities here in South Korea (and other Asian countries) prefer to recruit English teachers from countries where English is the native language. That is a matter of policy but it does not follow that the best English teachers are the ones coming from those countries… they could be somewhere else just waiting to be given an opportunity to prove their mettle in ESL teaching. And whether that policy reaped dividends and made the students in those countries better at English or ripped those countries of their precious dollars is an interesting topic for discourse.

There are a few tertiary institutions in this country employing teachers from the Philippines to teach English. These are the universities that believe that teaching English is not a monopoly of the teachers labeled as “native speakers” coming from the following countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. I have also written an article about the Filipinos and their romance with the English language. I also discussed in the same article a little bit about the thesis that ACCENT  is getting in the way of INTELLIGIBILITY and COMPREHENSIBILITY. I am planning to explore the topic further in future articles.

If the statistics gathered in 2013 by the Association of Filipino Professors in Korea (AFEK) is accurate then there are more or less 100  teachers from the Philippines in this  part of the Korean peninsula. That could still be the same number as of 2022. Reportedly, there are more in elementary and  secondary schools and academies (hagwon). This AFEK came to know when they launched in May, 2017 the program “Skills Enhancement for Filipino Teachers Teaching English in Korea.” Several of the attendees were Filipino women married to South Koreans and are employed as English teachers.  The Philippine Embassy in Seoul, however, doesn’t have any official record that could give the exact number of Filipinos teaching in the basic education schools and academies here.

Filipino professors are not limited to teaching English subjects only. They are E-1 visa holders and are allowed to teach content subjects depending on their fields of specialization.

students
The writer – with his TOEIC students

E-2 visa holders are allowed by the Ministry of Education here to teach strictly English subjects only. One advantage of hiring Filipino professors, because theirs is E-1 visa, is they can be asked to teach content subjects related to their fields especially if the curriculum requires that the content subjects should be taught in English. Currently, in the university where this writer is teaching,  three teachers from the Philippines, aside from teaching English subjects, would once in a while be invited to teach content subjects in the university’s Graduate School or serve as advisers to foreign students writing their dissertation.

I wouldn’t say that Filipino professors in universities in South Korea are lucky to have been hired. Why? They have to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to have a chance of getting hired. They applied alongside teachers who are native speakers of English who have the upper hand, not because of their qualifications and pedagogical skills, but because of their geographical roots.

Most of the Filipino professors here are PhD degree holders. The minimum requirement FOR THEM  is Masters. Surprisingly, some native speakers of English, are allowed to teach in universities here even if they don’t have Masters.

To the universities that opened the opportunity for Filipino professors and hired them, the applicants needed to prove that they are as equally capable as their counterparts from the native English-speaking regions of the world. When they got hired, it was because they are qualified and have proven that they have what it takes to be English teachers. It wasn’t luck.

Filipino teachers are trained in the Philippines to both know what to teach and know how to teach what they know.

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The writer – with a fellow-Filipino teacher and some of their students

Modesty aside, the Philippines has a very good education curriculum implemented through the Commission on Higher Education which closely monitors  TEIs (Teacher Education Institutions) to ensure strict compliance. Thus,  Education graduates from the Philippines can be relied upon not only in terms of the knowledge, skills, attitude, and values in their field of specialization but also in pedagogy and in research. Filipino teachers are good in both instruction and research.

One of the best features of “teacher training” in the Philippines is teachers are made to understand that the most important stakeholder in a school is the STUDENT, not the TEACHER. When they need to, Filipino teachers know how to adhere to the philosophy that the teaching-learning process  should be student-centered.

One reason, if not the main and only reason,  most universities in Asian countries (like South Korea, Japan and China) prefer to hire teachers from those seven countries is ACCENT.

The Filipinos are good at English with the said language being the official medium of instruction in the Philippines from kindergarten to college – even in graduate school. Filipinos, at an early age, write and speak English. They hear and read it everywhere. It is also the official language of communication in the Philippines.  All business and government transactions are done in English. The country also has the 3rd largest group of English speakers in the world. Their accent is not bad. It’s neutral, to say the least. This is the reason why the Philippines is one of the leading countries for BPO. But notwithstanding all the aforementioned, still the said universities prefer native English speakers and do not include Filipino teachers in their lists of preferences.

But there are two things that would make hiring a Filipino teacher a wise investment – two things far more important than ACCENT… their PASSION for teaching and COMPASSION for the learners.

It is easy to learn to mimic somebody’s way of creating vowel and consonant sounds and diphthongs but it is hard for teachers to be passionate  about the job and compassionate with the students…. especially if they are not really trained to be one and were only forced to accept the teaching job for lack of better options.

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