Thursday, July 4, 2013

Shut Up, Teacher

A little essay I wrote out of frustration. I forgot about this essay until I found it in my computer's many many folders. Wrote it way back when I was doing my practicum. And looking at myself from two years ago, I realized that being in a conservative school has never diminished my beliefs.

It was a sunny late morning and the heat of the incoming summer was starting to be felt in our faculty room.
Flux of graduating students also went in and out of the room, as it was a deadline day. At my table, I was reading an article from a newspaper about the reproductive health bill and since majority of the teachers that were with me in that room were married and had have kids, I asked them if they were in favor of the bill. The teachers gave me an assertive answer, as they felt that there was nothing wrong with it and they were not killing anybody in using contraceptives. A teacher also asked me if I was for it, I said yes, and I also said my criticism on the church’s stand. However, another teacher whispered to me which dragged me away from the friendly sharing of opinions, “Do not engage in debate yet, you're still a student-teacher.” As she was saying this, the topic was still being discussed, and the said teacher asked me my motives. I said that I just felt agitated with the church’s logic. She nodded her head and turned her attention back to what she was doing.

As soon as I found a way to go back to the conversation, I looked closely at the highlighter marker pen that I was holding and said, “This highlighter's cool; it looks like a lipbalm.” I felt a sense of success as one of the teachers who answered me took my highlighter and examined it; they really welcomed the change of topic. They ate my bait.

As I went back to reading the article, I wondered on why student teachers are not allowed to give their views on pressing issues. Sure, I am young and I still do not understand a real public school teacher’s reality. But the issue at hand must surely be a part of a real school teacher’s reality, as the topic that I opened concerned not only the parents, but most especially the students, their students. I heard their god-knows-how-many conversations about their students getting pregnant at age 16 and younger, so why prevent a healthy discourse about a soon-to be policy that would have an effect in the educational curriculum? Should we as teachers be aware of these things? Should we stop ourselves in participating or even initiating a potentially intellectually fruitful conversation? I heeded the teacher’s call for me to stop babbling about the topic; I saw her point that I was not in the position to open the topic up, but I am sure that I am in the position to open up the topic as a concerned youth concerned with her fellow youth. It seemed to me that she was trying to impose the don’t-talk-because-you-are-the-state’s-robot type of silence on me. But how about her? She is in the exact position to participate in discussions, as the double-edged sword of being a citizen and teacher is on her shoulders. She is a full-pledged teacher; can she do what I can do? She is young; can she be as concerned? The school cannot be considered as an institution in a vacuum, and teachers cannot stay apolitical for so long just because the government is putting money in their pockets. We are political beings whether we like it or not, and it is our choice to be either become a catalyst of change or a perpetuator of state oppression.

How can we change our students if we keep silent? How can we contribute in making a better society for our students if we ourselves refuse to put into question the issues that will deeply affect them?

I went to the lavatory and saw the much senior teacher who took my highlighter. I asked her.

"Ma'am, is it just fine if we student-teachers initiate topics like RH bill earlier?"

"It's just fine. It's just fine for a teacher to air her views. What's forbidden for a teacher is to endorse a politician."

Two conflicting views indeed.

The teacher went out of the comfort room to go to her class, and I continued washing my hands. I remembered my reason for staying in education, “to make myself a liberal working in an overly conservative working environment.”

I stared at myself in the mirror with anger bubbling up my chest.


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