Carrying the week supplies, some books and instructional materials, Nanay (as I called my mother) had to to walk along the rugged and narrow trails, crossing the mighty Salug River seven times before reaching barangay Paraiso, a mountain barangay in Mahayag.
My father sometimes accompany her. Sometimes, the barangay captain of Paraiso would pick her up in the Poblacion, along with her co-teacher.
It was on the early 80’s when the leftist were active. It was unsafe for women teachers like them to teach in the barrio that hosted the leftist.
But according to her, it was more dangerous for a male teacher to teach in the area as he could be easily suspected as spy. Aside from the feeling of being threatened with stern look and heavily armed bodies, the leftists never harmed civilians like her (unless they suspect one’s intention in going through “their territory”).
It was the picture of my mother’s early teaching experience which she considered as heart-pounding. She taught a year in Paraiso before she was assigned to our barrio.
Indeed, it was an acid test for a teacher.
The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet, Aristotle said. Teaching in a barrio is difficult but for dedicated teachers, it is challenging.
Nanay recalled that most of her students in the combination class (grades one and two) were already in high school age; many of them were from the Subanen tribe. Their willingness to learn inspired her and served as her consolation. Many of her students didn’t even have had writing materials. Students shared books. Those supplies were scarce.
From her experience and from the experience of other teachers who have taught in barrios, I am convinced that the best traits a teacher should possess is the passion to pass on what he learned, how he learns, and how to learn more. From passion to teaching bears dedication, perseverance, dynamism, creativity.
The experience of my mother as teacher both make me feel proud and sad. I am proud because she possesses the qualities of an ideal teacher; dedicated, patient, and innovative. I feel sad because it reveals to me the real state of teaching profession which discouraged many to pursue.
As I reflect, I remember one of the best mentor of Journalism in Misamis Institute of Technology, Ruly Cagadas. In a journalism class, he asked: What is journalism for you, a career, a profession, a vocation?
I asked the same question to my students in Essay and Expository writing class in Blancia Carreon College. Most of them are enrolled in the College of Teacher Education – they aspire to become teachers.
I likewise throw the questions among my classmates in the graduate school of La Salle University (Ozamiz City). There were different answer to the question. Some viewed teaching merely as work. They will follow the simple formula, work equals income. Some see teaching as a way to advance personally and professionally. They follow the formula, to learn more equals teach more. Some take teaching as a mission, a service to the community. Of the the three, nothing is better. Getting the three is the best!
Those who teach or have taught in a barrio know that teaching is more than a career and profession. It is a vocation!
Soon my mother will reach the age when she needs to rest in going to school early. She will retire but I am sure she will never stop teaching.