I had the wonderful privilege of having another career before becoming a full-time teacher. This gave me a very good view of the great divide between teaching and the other professions.
I am as passionate about my previous profession as I am about teaching, and I certainly believe there is nobility in every profession. But there is something about teaching that gives that certain high—and low—that can only be explained by actual experience.
What is a teacher?
I would like to answer that question with a true story.
In my first advisory class, I had this unmotivated pupil who had been “branded” with a big loser sign on his head. He would clam up every time he was called and would not even stand up for simple recitations.
I discovered pretty soon that even the significant people around him would intone words that did nothing but bring this pupil down.
Well, I am not a master teacher and I cannot claim to be really, really good at teaching. And, heck, it was my first time, at an age when I was supposed to be “enjoying the fruits of my labor.”
But I had this burning desire to make this child realize that he could be someone, that he was not a loser. A good start, I assured myself. I needed gumption to see me through.
So every day we worked on his academics and his “self-appreciation.” We went through several exercises together and many emotional moments of high fives and quiet back taps just to assure ourselves we were on the right track.
Sometimes, it got really exhausting and, for many months, there was that feeling of futility, but just the same we plodded on together and hoped for the best.
Then came a big chance for us to assess what he had learned.
A competition was held and the first miracle happened—he was one of the finalists. Wow! It was a really big deal and, for me, already a big win.
Nobody imagined he would get into the finals. Even more unbelievable—he came in fourth!
What a wonderful feeling—so wonderful I cried.
So melodramatic, many would say. But I know a lot of teachers who, had they the same experience, would have felt the same way. Maybe not by crying openly as I did, but I am sure in the silence of an empty room they would have cried for joy.
A teacher’s mind believes. A teacher’s heart perseveres. A teacher’s love transforms.
Professional regulation groups may be able to measure the intellectual competence of a teacher. But who can really see the depths of a teacher’s heart, the intensity of a teacher’s passion and the sincerity of a teacher’s intention?
Passion lets the teacher see beyond weaknesses and limitations. Intention gives the teacher the power to empower other people.
I will probably go into another field yet again—who knows? But the part of my life that I spent teaching is something that I will never forget.
I guess I will be a teacher forever.
Ruth Fernandez Yap is head teacher at UCCP-Anabu Christian School in Imus, Cavite. She homeschools her own children.