Years ago, I was given the opportunity to teach in a state university. It was one of the best experiences I ever had, mostly because of the immense potential of students I witness everyday.
It’s not my first time to teach college students; however, this experience is really special to me as it feels like the first time. So many things I have learned along the way. There are contradictions I had to overcome to make my teaching productive. So many times I had to convince myself that I made the right decision.
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So, as tribute to the memories of my first semester in that state university, here are some major reflections I ponder on:
1) The government does not love teachers.
I know everyone else in this profession has the same reflection. I mean the government does not hide in any form of subtlety its dislike for teachers. When I was accepted as instructor, the school administration is quick to dismiss any hint of comfort I expect from the school.
During the orientation, me and the other faculty members hired were told that we were not considered employees of the school. There was no existing employee – employer relationship. We were not just contractuals, but also not employees! No strings attached. It’s actually kind of funny, because my sister would joke during class suspensions when government employees are not required to report to work. Are we included in the suspension of classes? But we were not employees!
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In addition, we were told not to expect any form of benefits. If we want to have social benefits, we must apply on our own. We should not even expect Christmas bonus! What type of relationship is this? And wait, before the orientation ended, we were told to expect delayed salaries.
I was mad during the orientation. It was hard for me to digest that this was the situation I was going to be in after years of dreaming of teaching in a state university. It made me question the validity of my decision. I did not push through with a potential career in Hawaii, I decided to limit my workload in media, I chose this over the private college I was working for with high pay and complete benefits, and I chose this over another private college offering a competitive pay and comfortable stay! I felt weak. I felt like I was betrayed. But when my senses returned, I realized this should not be a big deal. It was nothing personal, because the government betrays everyone, anyway.
2) The government spends more on politicians’ housing than on school facilities.
So, first day of the semester arrived. I was really excited. I was finding my classroom, but I could not locate it! The school was not big, but I could not find my classroom. Then it dawned on me that there was a shortage of classrooms. The local administration of the university is doing its best to maximize all its resources. But it was difficult.
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When I saw where I would hold my class, I almost cried. It sounds exaggerated, but yes, I almost cried. I thought Regine Velasquez would anytime come in and sing No Walls, No Ceilings, No Floors. I was assigned in an improvised classroom of the university’s newest building. There was no ventilation. There were no electric fans. Literally, there were no walls; only something to subdivide the floor into classrooms. In one room, which I guess could hold 35 students; a maximum of 65 students must fit! I had to figure out what I must do. Good thing there were available classrooms in the other building so I transferred some classes there. But not every class was fortunate. Some of my classes had to endure the scorching heat, the noise, everything!
I want to kill Napoles and all corrupt politicians. Why must the students suffer from discomfort? Why must we all suffer while they are enjoying all comforts in life?
3) The government does not care, at all.
Budget cuts, lack of facilities, disregard to social services: Tell me, what slight hint of care the government gives?
4) The government abandons us but we must continue the struggle and serve the people.
At times, I felt like quitting. As a part-time teacher, to earn a decent amount, I must handle 33 units or 11 classes. So that was 7 – 9 hours daily for four days of teaching 35 – 65 students per class. There were moments when I was just so tired. When I would arrive home, I wanted to sleep but I could not because I had to prepare my next lessons, or check quizzes, exams and countless essays. I was only a part-time teacher so I had to work extra to earn for me and my family’s needs. I work Monday to Sunday. I also study. Still, the government does not promise any comfort despite the service we render. We struggle each day. We at the lower strata of society kill each other to survive, while the upper echelon enjoys and feeds us with whatever left over it has.
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The driving force I used as motivation is the desire I saw in my students to pursue their studies to have a better life. It was difficult for me to teach given the conditions, but the students find it difficult too. Still, they continue. So who am I not to? It just saddens me that I have a choice, and not all of them have. I can leave anytime I want to, but for some, this is the only chance they have. Seeing the desire of my students to continue their education fuels me. It assures me that I made the right decision of choosing this over other opportunities.
5) The government must be held accountable for their actions.
We know what the government does against us. Therefore, we must continue the call against impunity. Managot ang dapat managot! We hear it everyday, but it is true: those who don’t do anything against the vicious system sides with the oppressors. We must get what we all deserve: higher state subsidy.
So, these were some reflections I had for the semester. I am now looking forward for the next one. This time, I must give greater emphasis in my lessons the crimes of this government. The students must realize they deserve more. Unless the status quo is dismantled, the vicious cycle will continue.