Friday, October 5, 2012

A Teacher's Point of View

Sidney Snoeck has provided us with excellent photography that captures the heart and soul of classrooms in the Philippines. The following is one example:
Photo downloaded from http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/my_sarisari_store/school_life/
Sidney then adds at the end of these photos a quotation:

The only reason I always try to meet and know the parents better is because it helps me to forgive their children.
-Louis Johannot- a teacher.


With the above image and quote in my head, the following sentence caught my attention in Alexander Russo's This Week In Education:
That is why the first rule of education reform, I believe, should be to listen to the kids and they will teach you how to teach them. Stop treating human beings as numbers, and we can build on students' (often maddening) moral consciousness to create school cultures worthy of a democracy.
-John Thomson
This was a reaction to an interview with the best selling author, J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), by National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep. The topic of the interview is Rowling's new novel, "The Casual Vacancy". The following description of the novel is given by Amazon:

Figure downloaded from http://www.amazon.ca/The-Casual-Vacancy-J-K-Rowling/dp/0316228532

Book Description

Sep 27 2012
When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

Pagford seems a town that depicts all the current struggles in present society. I have not read the novel but Rowling's words in the NPR review seems to indicate that this story takes the perspective of a teacher. One of the characters in the story apparently was drawn from experiences of Rowling as a teacher. In Wikipedia, one reads, "An advert in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto in Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. She taught at night, and began writing in the day whilst listening to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto." In the interview, Rowling notes that she went into welfare after her first marriage failed. Thus, when she said:
I mean, one of the great problems for me is that the poor - and I can here only really speak about Britain, though I suspect this is a fairly universal attitude - the poor are so often discussed just as this large, shapeless mass. 
You lose your individuality a huge amount when you have no money, and I certainly had that experience. You become a statistic and in person you become very depersonalized, too. You don't have an answer to the question "What do you do?" You become part of a problem. You're someone who stands in a line to get money. It's not where you want to be, and you become very voiceless.
She must be speaking from her heart, from her own experience. When I was in grade school, my teacher asked to see my mother because I was being uncooperative in class. I was refusing to participate in handicraft activities. It was then that my teacher discovered the reason. I knew my parents could not afford to pay for the materials necessary for the handicraft projects. Realizing one's poverty is a dramatic revelation.  Children do not fully sense their economic position in society until much later in their childhood. When this full recognition occurs, it is a very consequential learning episode in one's life. Children do not choose to be poor and yet, these circumstances are real and poor children have to deal with poverty. After realizing that I was poor, the first instinct was denial. I vividly remember the time when a high school teacher noticed that I only had two pairs of uniform. The pants have been so worn out that my mother had to put patches on them making it quite easy to identify each set. As if my teacher knew exactly how I was feeling, his eyes simply gave me the assurance that there was nothing wrong with being poor. And he did not call for my mother to seek an explanation.

In a country with so many in poverty like the Philippines, teachers do have their hands full. Poverty can strike education with a knock out punch. And all that stands between a poor pupil and failure is a teacher who cares and listens. To all the great teachers out there, thank you and this World Teachers' Day is for you.

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