Today, Oct. 5, the world celebrates World Teachers’ Day per the declaration of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 1994.
I have given accolades to my teachers in the past and this time I write on the thoughts of my four children about them.
Although they gave different reasons, they all said they considered their teachers their heroes.
My eldest son, Paolo, considers his Ateneo High School math teacher (whom he fondly calls Ms A) as his hero because she gave up greener pastures to continue teaching in the country. Putting things in context, he says: “I entered high school at a time when the turnover rate among high school teachers was quite high. Our teachers would only stay for a few years and then leave for other opportunities abroad. Yet, some of them felt that educating a generation of pupils to uplift the country takes precedence over increasing the balance of their personal bank accounts. A popular saying on social media is to the effect that teachers are not after the income but the outcome. Despite personal challenges here, my math teacher chose to stay for the long haul. Ms A serves as an example of putting a wider group’s well-being ahead of her personal enrichment.”
My second son, Edward, who has been into extreme sports even before he became a lawyer, finds a hero in his off-campus teacher (Brad Vancina) who taught him skydiving.
He says: “Brad taught me a lot of things which I wished I learned earlier in life. He taught me how to embrace uncertainty with an open mind. Early in our training, he emphasized that our parachutes either come out square or not. If your parachute comes out in a shape other than a square, you’re in trouble. Pulling my chute was probably the scariest part of my training as we were taught that malfunction was sometimes inevitable. There are just too many variables involved, e.g., wind direction, jumper stability and canopy integrity. Inevitably, I, too, suffered from several malfunctions. Nevertheless, I had been taught how to deal with them, and I made my way back home every time. Jumping from planes is a lot like life. You can’t control everything. You can do your best to predict what might happen, but sooner or later you’re going to experience moments of immense uncertainty. You have to be comfortable with that and move forward. You’ll never make it if you’re not willing to take risks.”
Edward adds: “Another thing Brad taught me is that being brave does not mean you aren’t afraid. Throughout my time jumping with him, I consistently suffered from ground rush where the ground beneath you moves rapidly … so much that you freeze up and are unable to identify the correct moment to land with your feet. I ended up dragging myself across the field (and sometimes the asphalt) and hurting myself many times. Brad called me out one night and asked me why I never stepped out from under my parachute. He told me that I had the perfect landing pattern but froze the moment I got close to the ground. He asked me if I was scared. I said that I was, on account of how fast the ground seemed and how many times I hurt myself landing. He told me, ‘Then man the [expletive] up.’ It was a simple answer to my problem, but I had never thought of it. I landed perfectly the next day and the day after that. Although the ground still came at me like bull out of the gate, I learned to hold back my fear. I learned to plant my feet firmly on the ground as soon as I felt the grass beneath me. In life, being brave doesn’t mean you are fearless. It means you have enough character to prevail over what scares you. In fact, this is the very quality of bravery. Doing what you’re afraid to do.”
My third son (Julo), who is being guided by his law teachers as he prepares for the bar exams, has a philosophical perspective about his teachers.
He says that teachers “were once like the students they taught.” They, too, “had more questions than answers and had to look to others for instruction.”
“They went through their own hardships and had to deal with their own challenges [but] they slowly mature[d] into the individuals they are today.”
He says that teachers “showcase our potential” and show “how individuals can develop into people who will one day help influence society.”
My youngest, Stephanie, is expectedly simple yet sincere in her accolade.
“My favorite teachers are my 4th grade English teacher and my 8th grade Science teacher. My 4th grade English teacher was very witty. She taught and related with her students very well. My 8th grade Science teacher was very approachable and because of her, my passion to continue working hard in fields involving science grew bigger. Though I don’t see these teachers that much anymore, I still recognize them as my favorites because they have left a positive impact on me,” she says.
From me and my wife, as parents, to all the teachers on your big day, here’s one for you quoting from the great philosopher Aristotle: “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”