We don’t need teach­ers

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - BY: RHODERICK JOHN ABEL­LANOSA

Pope Paul VI said, in Evan­gelii Nun­tiandi that “mod­ern man lis­tens more will­ingly to wit­nesses than to teach­ers, and if he does not lis­ten to teach­ers, it is be­cause they are wit­nesses.”

I am writ­ing an­other piece on the mean­ing of be­ing a teacher be­cause some schools con­tinue to honor their teach­ers around this time. I be­lieve though that a more im­por­tant rea­son for an­other re­flec­tion is the time­less value of teach­ing it­self.

Let me be­gin with some re­al­i­ties about the teach­ing pro­fes­sion. One, though pro­fes­sion­al­ized, teach­ing is per­ceived by some peo­ple as a pale achieve­ment com­pared to other pro­fes­sions. To make this more con­crete, let me put the mat­ter this way: pass­ing a teach­ers’ board is noth­ing com­pared to pass­ing the med­i­cal board or bar exam. This means that in terms of im­pact and in­ten­sity, be­com­ing a lawyer or a doc­tor is harder than be­com­ing a teacher.

Sec­ond, other pro­fes­sion­als are al­most al­ways “un­ques­tion­able au­thor­i­ties” in their field. It is rare for a pa­tient not to at least ini­tially trust the med­i­ca­tion of a doc­tor. And as for the lawyers, who would not trust them? Peo­ple even go to lawyers much as they would love to go to St. Jude, the pa­tron of hope­less and des­per­ate cases. This is not the case with teach­ers. I know for a fact that worse comes to worst – a par­ent dis­con­tented with the score of her child would end up ques­tion­ing the teacher’s cre­den­tials. It is not even a se­cret that many par­ents would say that the rea­son why their chil­dren fail is be­cause the “teacher does not know how to teach.” Two words sum­ma­rize this: “teacher fac­tor.”

I am say­ing these re­al­i­ties for one good rea­son: one would never truly ap­pre­ci­ate the value of teach­ing if one ro­man­ti­cizes teach­ing. Many peo­ple would love to re­peat the phrase “teach­ing is a noble pro­fes­sion.” This phrase how­ever is empty if we do not em­brace the painful truths and the hard facts of the pro­fes­sion. Teach­ing is not noble if the teacher sits in a throne and gets praises and hon­ors all year round.

A true teacher is not pre­ten­tious. It is not the lack of mis­takes that makes a good teacher but the hu­mil­ity to ad­mit should one com­mit them. It is not the con­tent of the sub­ject that a teacher can best give to his stu­dents. In teach­ing, “the medium is the mes­sage.” The per­son of the teacher is the very core of what he com­mu­ni­cates to the stu­dents.

Let us ad­mit the fact that not many of the top­ics a teacher teaches will be re­mem­bered by stu­dents ten more so twenty or thirty years later. When stu­dents will gather dur­ing their re­u­nion they will re­mem­ber the per­son of the teacher, not his lessons. They will re­call what their teach­ers did. Ei­ther they will re­mem­ber the kind­ness or the abuses of their teach­ers.

Pre­cisely, Pope Paul VI was right. Our world to­day needs wit­nesses and not just teach­ers. In the end the word teacher and wit­ness are syn­ony­mous. The real teacher is a true wit­ness. He lives up to what he teaches. A real sci­ence teacher be­lieves in the im­por­tance of dis­cov­ery. A real English teacher be­lieves in the value of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. A real phi­los­o­phy teacher be­lieves that he does not know any­thing and that is why the search is not and can­not be over. A teacher who does not be­lieve in what he teaches is not a teacher. At the very least he is an ac­tor who mem­o­rizes a script. Worse, he is a clown who is paid to pre­tend and amuse peo­ple. Stu­dents are in­tel­li­gent, and they can smell from afar if their teacher loves what he does.

If teach­ers truly want their stu­dents to learn, they have to con­tin­u­ally re­new their com­mit­ment to the pro­fes­sion. The great­est chal­lenge on the part of the teacher is to be con­sciously aware why he is a teacher.

It is not easy to be a teacher. Pre­cisely, teach­ing is not just a pro­fes­sion. It is a choice. It is a con­vic­tion. It is not earn­ing a liv­ing. It is a way of life. It is life.

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