June 7, 2008

Teacher sa Pinas Po Ako

Yesterday I checked the balance of my ATM account. I had exactly five thousand nine hundred sixty three pesos and sixty centavos. That was it. For a moment, I felt so tiny… almost as tiny as my bank account. Granted I have it better than many of our fellow citizens who are starving and barely making ends meet, I suddenly found myself contemplating my career choice.

I am a proud teacher.

Being able to teach children, both young and old, has been such a tremendous blessing to me. It has changed my life in so many ways. Sometimes though, I have to question the practicality of my choice when I am faced with my dwindling bank account. At the end of the day, however, no matter how much I wish I had a bigger paying job, I can't get myself to leaving the job I have grown to love.
I say ‘grown to love’ because I have to be honest --- teaching was not something I had imagined myself doing as a young child. Back then I envisioned myself as a successful doctor, or perhaps a businesswoman running a lucrative company. I can even remember that early on in my college days, I proudly raised my hand when my block was asked who were planning to shift courses. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself where I am today. Due to a series of, as I'd like to believe, fortunate accidents, I found my calling in life. It is the classroom. Whether it is singing and
dancing with my preschoolers or discussing life events with my college students, this is who I am meant to be. It’s as if by being inside those rooms, I find my way to my soul where I find purpose, pleasure and hope.

I have to admit every term I am faced with a bulk of students who make me feel like all my hard work and my pursuit of teaching a waste of time. While being in the classroom is my calling, sometimes it is not an easy task, especially when you have difficult students. Couple this with the knowledge that my sister, who manages a clothing store in the U.S. makes thrice what I make an hour, I begin to question the practicality of my calling. Perhaps even more so, the practicality of my decision to teach here in the Philippines.

My friends and I have had endless conversations about that, especially in the face of the economic woes, political hoopla, and depressing cost of living in our country today. Even our college dean asked me not so long ago when I was planning to follow my sister to the states. I jokingly responded, “hindi na sir, kailangan pa ng La Salle ng magaling na teacher diba”. While I said that in jest, I realized that deep down inside, it wasn't a joke. I do want to keep on teaching here and being part of the lives of tomorrows Filipino youth.

In one of my classes, we discuss career development and awareness. In these sessions, I see how much of our youth envision themselves as earning dollars in the future. What warms my heart, however, is hearing that small minority say they still want to do something for their country. That in itself fans that small flame of hope I hold near and dear to my heart that someday, somehow, our country will become a better place for us to live in, where we can afford to live a good life without needing to work abroad and earn that proverbial dollar.

Staying in the Philippines may not be the most sensible decision. In the same breath, teaching may not also be considered to be a practical career choice, especially in comparison to the range of available higher paying jobs out there. But I will stay. I will stay and draw inspiration from what my very good friend Che simply said once in reference to her decision to become a doctor to the barrio --- why not? So as a new school year starts I say with the same conviction WHY NOT?

Now if only my bank account can say the same thing when I ask for more money :-) to continue reading...

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