MINDFUL

By Jay Ledesma

WHEN we talk about front liners, the first persons to come into our mind are our medical health workers - doctors, nurses, and allied medical staff. These are the people who, on a daily basis, go out and risk their lives to take care of the sick and to keep us safe and healthy. And we truly appreciate and respect them for their handwork and commitment to their profession. 
 
But there is another group of front-liners who, amidst this health crisis, has also shown a great deal of loyalty to their professional calling. As we celebrate National Teachers’ Month this September, I would like to give tribute to the dedication, sacrifices, and true heroism of our Educational Frontliners, who displayed extra courage and resiliency, during this pandemic.  
 
For most of us, next to our parents, our teachers were our idols, role models, and aspirations.  Many of us dreamed of being a teacher when we grow up. I have always wanted to be a teacher.  Though I did not take up Education for my undergrad course, I am thankful that I got to realize my dream. First, was when I was hired as a College Instructress at my Alma Mater Centro Escolar University. And when I landed several corporate positions involving training and education. I just love the opportunity to inspire hope, stretch the imagination, plant the seed of learning and cause my students and trainees to take action. Never mind the long hours spent preparing for the lessons.  
 
As it has done to other professionals, the ongoing pandemic has also taken its toll on our teachers.  As they are expected to be the source of learning, to lead the change, and to "show and tell” their students, the pressure to quickly learn, adjust and adopt was on the shoulders of our teachers. Many struggled, and many are still struggling under the new normal. 
 
With the schools closed and face-to-face meetings not allowed, the first thing they had to learn was how to conduct their classes online. The majority had to receive training through webinars for distance learning. For the younger teachers, migrating to the digital platform did not pose a major challenge. But for those in the older generations, it was a major source of concern. But still, they gave it their best shot. Some had to spend extra hours learning while others had to reach out and seek additional help from their fellow teachers and even from the younger members of their families, just to make sure that they are ready for the new teaching methodology. 
 
Not only do they have to consider their own personal challenges and limitations, but they also had to consider their students’. Realizing that the new methodology may be challenging for some of their students, some teachers even collaborated and took the initiative to create more efficient class programs/sessions, and come up with self-paced modules so they can help their students learn better at a pace more comfortable for them, whether they do it online or thru printed modules.  They do not stop looking for ways to give their students more appropriate and effective learning delivery modalities, as they have students who have resources and those who have very limited means.     
 
The struggle is much greater when we consider those in the far-flung areas.  For those using the online platform, internet connectivity is the biggest problem. We have seen in the news, how some teachers have to climb up the trees or hike hills just to get a good internet connection to attend the required webinars or conduct their online classes. Add to this, is the need for them to shell out their own money for internet connection, which was not part of their budget pre-pandemic.  Sure, there’s some WIFI allowance from DepEd, but we also know that this is not enough.   
 
It’s a totally different story of sacrifice for teachers who have to distribute the printed modules to their students who do not have access to online classes. Due to the geographical conditions, some of them have to either take long motorcycle rides or walk for hours (some to include crossing rivers) just to deliver the printed modules to their students.  n one TV interview that I saw, a teacher from Bukidnon said that "pandemic should not be a reason for my pupils to stop learning. If it means I have to trek several miles every day so I can provide learning materials to my students and guide their parents, I will do it without any hesitations”. 
 
Let’s not forget the fact, that most of these teachers were already doing these house visits since last year when there were still no vaccines available.  Even today, we still have a lot of teachers in the remote municipalities who remained unvaccinated due to lack of available vaccines ( though some by their choice), yet continue to risk their health and lives whenever they do the house visits or even just reporting to school and distributing modules to the parents. 
 
And the list goes on… 
 
A big thank you to our countless teachers who have their students’ welfare and best interests at heart and are working passionately and tirelessly to ensure that their students receive the education they rightfully deserve. We are grateful that, pandemic or not, you continue to be fueled by your mission to touch and make a difference in the lives of your students and influence their future.  
 
Your resilience, passion, and commitment during these trying times have become a source of inspiration for all of us.  Bill Gates could have not said it perfectly, "Technology is just a tool.  In terms of getting the kids to work together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important”.  We may have the best educational digital platforms set out for our students, but nothing can out best the personal care, guidance, and mentoring of our teachers.    
 
Salute to our educational front-liners! Salute to our dear teachers!  

About the Columnist

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Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.