By Jake Dinglasa Fraga
Master Teacher I
Dugmanon Elementary School
Division of Surigao del Sur

Stretching my umbrella’s blue canopy, I basked in a warm breeze one seemingly freezing day. Hustling my way to catch the early bus, I gently folded its eight equally-spaced ribs as I entered the bus to shield myself from the pouring rain. While I was seated, its sturdy shaft kept me in balance, with my left hand holding it firmly and my right hand softly massaging my reddened soles and ankles. Despite the pain, I still smiled, knowing that I managed to stay for almost ten years in this noblest job – teaching.

For the teachers in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, who travel every morning braving the road-to-school hassles, staying in the profession is a true definition of passion. In my case – amid the disquieting discomfort of delayed buses, slow-paced tricycles, or fully loaded vans that seemingly considered me not a priority passenger – I could not bear the thought of giving up on my teaching profession. To some teachers, giving up is their way of freeing themselves from the stress and pressure they have endured over the years. Others see it as an opportunity to look for greener pastures outside schools. Yet, for me, the thought of leaving the profession is more painful than my aching feet.
I could not imagine my fellow teachers wearing other uniforms. I always hope they find fun and contentment in their hearts to stay. However, some of them have expressed their plan of transferring to other agencies. But what made them want to leave?
The recent study by Diliberti, Schwartz, and Grant showed that stressful work was the most dominant reason public school teachers opted to quit teaching amid the challenges of the pandemic. Teachers who spent long hours in distance learning activities incurred higher stress levels. Even a Senior High School teacher confessed that the value-added tasks given to him were too overwhelming, not to mention the time pressure (in submitting school reports) that he felt may compromise the quality of teaching and learning.

However, the Department of Education constantly reminds teachers that they only need to spend a maximum of six hours of classroom instruction. But inevitably, they had to perform additional tasks for other related purposes. Thus, the schools must ensure that teachers work productively and happily even under pressure.

Like the umbrella that covered me from the rain, the school administrators can protect the teachers from the temptation of quitting by making them feel valued. If unfolding the ribs stretches the canopy, then giving teachers some breathing space brings them comfort and relief from the work-related pressure and stress. For teachers to stay in the profession, they need a lot of patience, understanding, and determination until they become as strong as the shaft that keeps everything in balance, holding together the organization firmly with their unwavering spirit for teaching.