Sunday, July 15, 2007

Teachers, Mentors and Martyrs of sorts


Inspiring individuals (students, teachers, administrators), frustration (with language barriers in and out of the classroom and miscommunication that results), political agendas, youthful enthusiasm, energy, sincere interest in learning, pride (the kind that instills success in the classroom but prevents success in work relationships),and others are sometimes all the emotions I may encounter in one day at Siniloan National High School. Sound like a lot to deal with?

I thought so before two classrooms caught fire and then a few weeks later a student died from an undiagnosed case of Dengue Fever. The teachers of course take everything in their own hands and claim ownership for what happens in the school. When the school caught on fire, teachers left their dinner tables and ran to the school to help put out the fire and salvage what they could from the classrooms. Many books and school records were lost in the fire. When a student died of Dengue, the principal personally went to the students home to determine whether the responsibility lay with the school or the family.

All classroom advisors will be giving a lecture on dengue and distributing pamphlets on how the students can protect themselves from the virus. (Or that was the plan. It never happened due to logistics a.k.a., political issues.) What I find the most interesting is that the teachers are very enthusiastic to host lectures and to implement new teaching methods and experiential learning projects but the dept of education does not give the administration the flexibility to make many of their ideas possible. So a sense of helplessness hangs like a wet blanket over the office sometimes sarcasm seems hang cold and wet over the teachers shoulders, causing some to catch a sense of helplessness in the office and make it spread. It seems as if teaching is a much tougher profession here than in the states.

Granted teachers are drastically under-paid and often greatly over-qualified for the positions that they take but they do not have to pay out of pocket to repair the roofs of their classrooms or deal with as many financial hardship issues as we do here (where buying books and repairing the slipshod electrical wiring job in the library which if not repaired might cause a fire and finish off what books we do currently have in the library. These are the kinds of decisions to be made.Tough decisions. Being a prinicipal here is no doubt a job that causes more sleepless nights than restful ones.) And the issues that prevent students from coming to class have more to do with being able to afford a uniform and sacrificing money that could be used to feed the family or hours lost working...Families sacrifice a great deal just to send their children to a public school which is free...the small fees for regsitration, girl scouts, boy scouts, photo copies for class assignments, reading and everything else because there are never enough books, eat up what money the students might be able to salvage for lunch fare...There is a nutrition program that only operates for one marienda period a year...And this would help a starving child? This only occurs because the TLE team and students do a fundraiser every year.It's these sort of details that surprise me. The extent of the worries and concerns of students and the school's future and staff that hides behind my prinicipals easy, good-natured grin. The easy laughter I often hear in the office that my teachers create despite the worries and hardships of their students and their owns families that weigh on their mind.

"You can only laugh when things like this happen, " one co-worker once said to me. "All you can do is laugh and bare it."

This seems like a simple philosophy but to tolerate situations in Siniloan has a much different meaning than it would in the States. Personal relationships/rapport have to be more than luke warm. Maintaining friendly alliance s with all co-workers is a must even if they've stabbed you in the back countless times...So, dealing with a hostile co-worker can't be avoided by ignoring or avoiding them when there are so many social work functions is impossible. Social situations are part of life here and so forgiving or accepting the way someone is and smoothing out relationships is a necessity.


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