Why We Should Listen to Teachers

It is a lesson I learned early on from my parents. I need to listen when something important is being said. I need to listen to something that makes sense. Listening is of course one way we truly benefit from those who are much more informed than we are. Here is what Arkansas 2007 Teacher of the Year, Justin Minkel, recently wrote on his blog, "President Obama has often been described as an eloquent speaker. I learned this week that he is an eloquent listener, too."
President Obama's Family Picture (Wikipedia)
I guess having a spouse and two daughters can make any father a good listener.

Kidding aside, Minkel was in fact relating a meeting he had with the president together with the Education secretary and three other teachers. The conversation started with Obama asking the following questions:
  • Why had we stayed in our schools? 
  • What could he and the Secretary do to support teachers in high-need schools? 
  • What policies could ensure that students who need the strongest teachers receive them?
The four teachers who have been asked to address these questions have been teaching in high=poverty schools for over a decade. And the responses are as follows:
  • "There’s nothing wrong with the kids." These teachers find students with challenges as motivation. 
  • "Responsibility and delight could coexist", but only if such responsibility comes with freedom, creativity and autonomy.
  • "It’s not about good and bad teachers. It’s about good and bad teaching." Teachers become effective when they collaborate and work together. It is purposeful professional development that is necessary: reflection, collaboration and mentoring.
  • "If we want students to innovate, collaborate, and solve real-world problems, we need to make it possible for teachers to do those same things." This sounds similar to the second response above, perhaps, indicating why autonomy really matters to teachers.
Minkel ends his article with the following sentence, "The last thing the president said to us was, “You all make me feel hopeful.” President Obama, you left us hopeful, too." Of course, Minkel is quite quick to state that one meeting with the President will not solve all the challenges public school education in the US faces. But as Minkel says, "...it’s a damn good place to start."

Teachers in the Philippines are no different. They are equally caring and committed to their pupils. I went through public school and majority of my teachers treated me as if I was their own child. Sadly, the Philippines relates an opposite story. The country is now ruled by a president who in his last message to the public seems to be making a claim of infallibility.
President Aquino has been quoted recently asking people to wear a yellow ribbon to show support for his leadership. This is amid a coming typhoon threatening to hit parts of Luzon (Above photo copied from Allvoices.com).
The Supreme Court in the Philippines ruled unanimously (13-0) that Philippine president Aquino's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is unconstitutional. Conrado de Quiros wrote recently on the Inquirer:
...There are in fact two issues here, which government either cannot see or refuse to see. The first is the unconstitutionality of the DAP, the second is the criminality of the DAP. The second is debatable, the first is not...

...The unconstitutionality of things is not something we may treat lightly or dismiss as a minor thing, a “lapse in judgment,” or in this case as the unfortunate product of “good faith.” Giving the president the power to juggle funds is a wrong, it is an iniquity, it is a crime. You may not turn the country from a democracy into a “fiscal dictatorship” to stimulate the economy and benefit the people.

Lest we forget, Marcos himself justified declaring martial law to arrest anarchy and scuttle the oligarchy. Which he did at first, only to spark a more anarchic despotism and to mount an even more oligarchic crony system. Which shows why taking a patently wrong means for a presumably right end is wrong. An extreme example, doubtless, but it partakes of the same principle....

The president of the Philippines has demonstrated on several occasions his inability to listen. He does not listen to the Supreme Court with regard to what the Constitution says. Thus, it is no surprise that with the education system, the president likewise has no ears for the voices that actually matter, for the voices that actually have something worthwhile to say. No one in the high positions of government seems to be listening when it comes to education. It is either arrogance or utter ignorance. K+12 is handed down without considering what is happening on the ground. There are acute shortages in classrooms. There are classes where there are 80 pupils per teacher. There are no teaching and learning materials. These complaints apparently do not reach any ear inside the administration. No one has been fired for gross incompetence and dereliction of duty. Supervisors and superintendents continue to receive their salaries even if the districts under these officials are facing shortages that DepEd should have anticipated and appropriately addressed. And the worse part is that these administrators demand that teachers be accountable. These administrators should be made accountable first.

If the ills of public schools in the Philippines are hidden then these politicians and administrators have an excuse. The problem is that the present predicament of Philippine basic education is widely known, and teachers have been expressing their frustrations for years now. So, here is one more try from Teachers' Dignity:


July 8, 2014

After more than two years of implementation, the K-12 system is still in trial stage. And if we will use the K-12 program's grading system as standard, we will rate the program as "B" for its performance since 2012. Based on the grading system for K-12 which is contained in DepEd Order No. 73, s. 2012, "B" stands for "Beginning" which has a numeric equivalent of 74% and below. Other marks are D for Developing; AP for Approaching Proficiency; P for Proficient; and A for Advanced.

That poor rating is based on the problems surfaced during the first 2 years of K-12 implementation including the first month of this school year. On top of the list is the shortage in term of facilities- seats, classrooms, water and sanitation facilities and kindergarten facilities. Another problem is the shortage in terms of learning and teaching materials- textbooks and teachers manuals. The teachers are burdened in downloading materials from the DepEd website which they will reproduce charged against their own pockets. The trainings were insufficient and many of those teachers who were hired during the last two years were not trained for K-12 curriculum because DepEd hires teachers in June and the trainings were done during summer vacation. There will also have a further shortage in terms of teachers, especially in kindergarten and eventually in senior high school which will be opened in 2016. Affected teachers in the tertiary level will become jobless and the DepEd system may not be prepared to absorb all of them.

It may be harsh, but we urge the Senate to review the K-12 law and consider the capacity and political will of the government in further implementing this program. Or we may forget  about its promises and subsequently suspend its implementation until substantial fund allocation for the program is met. We urge this honorable committee and the Department of Education (DepEd) to initiate a genuine dialogue and wider information dissemination.

Finally, we challenge President Benigno Aquino III to solve the shortages in school system. If he has the political will to enforce disbursement acceleration program (DAP) even without the legal basis to do so, we call on him to provide all the necessary funds to public education system and to do it in good faith. #

Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC)
Senate Hearing on K-12 Implementation
July 8, 2014

May those who have eyes see and those who have ears listen. Amen.