What Makes a Good Teacher Happy

More than a decade ago, I met quite a number of elementary school teachers in the Philippines. One of these was a young lady who was also working on her masteral degree. This teacher, Arlene Alegre Inogada, recently posted a photo on Facebook that should be an eye-opener to anyone interested in improving education in the Philippines. The photo, yet so simple, conveyed the happiness felt by a teacher. And to me, the message was clear - if we desire to improve education we must start addressing the needs first. The beginning of this school year was quite special for this teacher because of one simple reason, her students would have textbooks this year.

Above photo courtesy of
Elementary School Teacher Arlene Alegre Inogada

Focusing on what is important in education is crucial because how we make students learn involves strenuous effort from so many. We require students who are willing to learn, teachers who are committed to their work, parents who are supportive, and a curriculum that makes sense. "But do we really need any more comprehensive, costly initiatives to fix our most challenging problems? If history forecasts the future, these large educational investments will pay minute dividends. As we now race to the top after having left quite a number of children behind, we have to wonder why so many grand educational initiatives yield such limited benefits. One key reason why big reforms return few benefits is relatively uncomplicated: We design interventions from the adult perspective instead of taking a student-centered point of view." This is what Hunter Gehlbach wrote years ago in Education Week. And he ends that article with this, "However, accounting for students' core needs should be a prerequisite to designing education initiatives, if these programs are to have a chance at succeeding."

Most solutions to challenges in basic education do not really need to be complicated.