Adversity comes to all. Teachers are no exception to this fact of life. The many roles that teachers play are replete with a plethora of daunting challenges – social, personal, emotional, and professional – which sometimes come as ravaging storms that challenge one’s existence in the public education system.
Hence, the Shakespearean question and I quote: “To be or not to be”? is a befitting question for those who are at a crossroads of whether they would continue their journey through this road less travelled. I have asked myself this question a lot of times – seeing reasons to leave, but I end up appreciating the many reasons to stay.
I have been teaching for almost four years now and it’s energy-draining. Yet, I have stayed because teaching has become my passion, and I have strong faith that it will bring me to the pedestal of my dreams.
True enough, I’ve made it possible for my family to live in a much-decent and comfortable house. I was able to send my younger sister to college—she finished her BSHRM course early this year. I’m currently supporting my younger brother in his last year in college as a criminology student.
I woke up to a culture that when you finish college and land a job, you have to provide for your family as your way of paying back. So I must provide. And this is on top of the bills that I have to pay at the end of every month.
Bank loans have saved me all this time from my overlapping pecuniary obligations. A meager net home pay cannot sustain the daily needs and other financial responsibilities. I even sacrificed my graduate studies this year because I don’t want to sink myself deeper in financial stress.
But amidst all these circumstances, I have remained steadfast in my job. As a language teacher, I have enjoyed teaching my students how to read critically and write passionately.
My job is very rewarding and uplifting. I am grateful to know that my former student-journalist is now a member of a student publication in his college. My students’ successes have fuelled a grand sense of fulfillment. They are the primary reason I keep falling in love with my job even during my weariest days.
As a school paper adviser and journalism coach, I always look forward to the press work and writing workshops with my student writers. When they win and reap countless awards in schools press conferences, I beam with pride and celebrate their feats.
My former students who were influenced by my love of reading and writing are my greatest treasures. Their Facebook statuses written in immaculate English evoke a sense of pride. Helping a student write and develop a paragraph is still one of the countless goals of an English teacher like me.
I spent countless days correcting their written works. When their speaking skills improve as well under my care, the feeling of achievement would overwhelm me. I have accompanied these hungry souls in their journey of defeating ignorance in themselves and fulfilling their dreams in life. The feeling of being able to guide and help these students who come to my classroom door every year has—in many instances—dissuaded me from leaving the teaching profession.
But days are not always sunshine and rainbows. There are days that I have to reprimand misbehaving students because they won’t simply listen. They disregard my advice (solicited or not) and neglect their studies for reasons that are either within or beyond their control. There are days when they are absent from school because they have to help their parents on the farm. Boys are sometimes missing from the class because they would accompany their fathers fishing in the high seas. Reasons like these that break a teacher’s heart but these too are reasons that allow a teacher to catch a glimpse of what these students are going through.
In these trying times of our country, being a public school teacher is very challenging. The families of my students—as well as mine— have been affected politically, socially, and especially economically. That includes but is not limited to the inflation or the soaring prices of basic commodities.
We are not immune to the various impacts by government policies, no matter how ill-advised or well-meaning these may be. And of course, we’re not exempted from the scourge of our toxic politics.
My elder brother was accused of illegal drug possession and was apprehended by the police right outside our home. He was just out of the house for a moment when suddenly the police went after him during a buy-bust operation. I could still remember how my siblings and my mother reacted to the shocking scene. It is hard to believe such an accusation when he was just helping my mother with the household chores on a daily basis. The whole scenario made me question whether there was still reason to dream big in this country, but I have to muster ample courage to move forward.
Mama has to regularly visit my brother in jail. Apart from salving the longings of a mother for her son, she says the visits also helped him momentarily escape from his congested detention cell. The whole family is still praying for the best things to work for us.
Recently, my younger brother was stabbed and mauled by a group of men in the city where he is studying. He sustained stab wounds that necessitated a major operation. Now he has to stop his studies this semester to rest and recover from his situation. This proves that our streets are still unsafe even with this administration’s law and order mantra.
Students too have their personal lives to attend to. They too are facing trials and difficulties of their own. When they talk about their lives I listen. I listen to their stories, I try to empathize and understand. I encourage them to persevere and face the cruelty of life. I have to remind them that problems are inevitable.
It is by far the toughest job of a teacher when you have to keep them on track in their studies while you are dealing with your own personal struggles.
Despite having been deluged with all of these, I still go to school Mondays to Fridays, and even on weekends to mentor my students in writing. My job means delivering it with my heart, mind, and spirit intact—teaching is my passion, after all. I could not afford to show the students of my weariness and my exhaustion. Truly, I have mastered how to pretend in front of my students. As a teacher, I have become familiar with hiding my personal issues, and emotional torments the moment I step into the classroom.
My stories may not weigh as much; thus, I salute all those teachers who remain steadfast amidst their struggles. They show me to keep working, pushing the days, and even nights for the sake of our students. In spite of being underpaid and underappreciated, we, teachers, have remained true and loyal to our calling. Our struggles in life have strengthened our core as educators, making us more determined and passionate about our job. Indeed, no amount of money can ever equate to the kind of service we have rendered to our students and our country.
The teaching profession may have been journeyed through the storms, leaving us weary at times, but our passion has remained abundant because we are rewarded by how our students become the best persons they can be.